Parental stress and air pollution increase childhood asthma in China

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Abstract

Background

Although air pollution and social stress may independently increase childhood asthma, little is known on their synergistic effect on asthma, particularly in China with high levels of stress and air pollution.

Objectives

To examine associations between exposure to a combination of parental stress and air pollution and asthma prevalence in children.

Methods

We conducted a cohort study of 2406 preschool children in Changsha (2011–2012). A questionnaire was used to collect children’s lifetime prevalence of asthma and their parental stress. Parental socioeconomic and psychosocial stresses were respectively defined in terms of housing size and difficulty concentrating. Children’s exposure to ambient air pollutants was estimated using concentrations measured at monitoring stations. Associations between exposure to parental stress and air pollution and childhood asthma were estimated by multiple logistic regression models using odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI).

Results

Life time prevalence of asthma in preschool children (6.7%) was significantly associated with parental socioeconomic and psychosocial stresses with OR (95% CI) respectively 1.48 (1.02–2.16) and 1.64 (1.00–2.71). Asthma was also associated with exposure to air pollutants, with adjusted OR (95% CI) during prenatal and postnatal periods respectively 1.43 (1.10–1.86) and 1.35 (1.02–1.79) for SO2 and 1.61 (1.19–2.18) and 1.76 (1.19–2.61) for NO2. The association with air pollution was significant only in children exposed to high parental stress, the association with parental stress was significant only in children exposed to high air pollution, and the association was the strongest in children exposed to a combination of parental stress and air pollution. Sensitivity analysis showed that the synergistic effects of parental stress and air pollution on childhood asthma were stronger in boys.

Conclusions

Parental stress and air pollution were synergistically associated with increased childhood asthma, indicating a common biological effect of parental stress and air pollution during both prenatal and postnatal periods.

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