Association between Lung Function and Mental Health Problems among Adults in the United States: Findings from the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

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Abstract

The objective of this study was to determine the association between lung function and mental health problems among adults in the United States. Data were drawn from the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1971−1975), with available information on a representative sample of US adults aged 25–74 years. Lung function was assessed by spirometry, and provisional diagnoses of restrictive and obstructive airway disease were assigned based on percentage of expected forced expiratory volume. Mental health problems were assessed with the General Well-Being scales. Restrictive lung function and obstructive lung function, compared with normal lung function, were each associated with a significantly increased likelihood of mental health problems. After adjustment for differences in demographic characteristics, obstructive lung function was associated with significantly lower overall well-being (p=0.025), and restrictive lung function was associated with significantly lower overall well-being (p < 0.001), general health (p < 0.0001), vitality (p < 0.0001), and self-control (p=0.001) and with higher depression (p=0.002) subscale scores compared with no lung function problems. Consistent with previous findings from clinical and community-based studies, these results extend available data by providing evidence of a link between objectively measured lung function and self-reported mental health problems in a representative sample of community adults. Future studies are needed to determine the mechanisms of these associations.

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