Asthma and emotion: a review

J Asthma. 1993;30(1):5-21. doi: 10.3109/02770909309066375.


This review of the empirical literature on the relationship between asthma and emotion presents an explanatory model of the connection between them. Asthmatics tend to report and display a high level of negative emotion, and asthma exacerbations have been linked temporally to periods of heightened emotionality. Causality may be bidirectional. Hypothesized mediators for the relationship between asthma and emotionality include vagal and alpha-sympathetic hyperreactivity, predominant obstruction in the larger airways, individual response stereotypy, direct effects of emotion-related facial muscle tension on the airways, the emotional effects of asthma medications, heightened respiratory drive, and hyperventilation. Predictions are presented for research on this model of asthma and emotion, and for the psychological treatment of asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*