Food Allergy and Anxiety and Depression among Ethnic Minority Children and Their Caregivers

J Pediatr. 2017 Aug:187:258-264.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.04.055. Epub 2017 Jun 5.


Objective: To investigate the relationship between food allergy and symptoms of anxiety and depression among ethnic minority, low socioeconomic status (SES) children and their caregivers.

Study design: Pediatric patients ages 4-12 years with and without food allergy and their caregivers were recruited from urban pediatric outpatient clinics. Statistical analyses were used to examine the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety and depression among patients and their caregivers with and without food allergy, adjusting for asthma.

Results: Eighty patients ranging from ages 4 to 12 years, with a mean age of 8.1 years, and their caregivers participated in the study. Food allergy was associated with significantly higher t scores on the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC) Total (P = .007), MASC Humiliation Rejection, (P = .02) and MASC Social Anxiety (P = .02) among pediatric patients, adjusting for asthma. Food allergy was not associated with child depression symptoms, nor was there a significant difference in anxiety or depression symptoms among caregivers of patients with and without food allergy.

Conclusions: Food allergy appears to be associated with increased symptoms of social anxiety and higher levels of anxiety overall, but not depression, in ethnic minority children of lower socioeconomic status. This finding was not due to confounding by asthma. Food allergy was not associated with higher levels of depression or anxiety symptoms among caregivers of pediatric patients with food allergy. Future studies should investigate potential pathways between food allergy and anxiety that may be unique to children in underserved populations, and develop interventions to reduce anxiety in children with food allergy.

Keywords: caregiver; child; food allergy; mental health.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires