Researchers in Boston and Puerto Rico have linked child abuse to a high risk of asthma, and the risk cuts across all socioeconomic groups. Here's a snippet from an article about the study that appeared in the Boston Globe:
"The researchers questioned about 1,200 children and their parents. Before they agreed to participate in the study, families were told that some questions would pertain to abuse and that authorities would be alerted if a child reported having been struck violently or subjected to sexual abuse.
Asthma was significantly more common among children who said they had faced abuse in the previous year, with 20 percent suffering from the respiratory ailment. Among children who had not sustained abuse, the asthma rate was 11.5 percent.
Still, abused children represented only a small fraction of the total number with asthma.
"It's very clear it's a very complex disease," Celedón said. "By no means should we say abuse is responsible for a majority of the cases. And I don't want this to stigmatize Puerto Ricans or other parents who have children with asthma."
From previous studies, the researchers knew that people who suffer abuse have depleted supplies of a pivotal hormone called cortisol that is regulated by the brain. That's relevant to asthma because cortisol helps reduce inflammation, and asthma causes airways to become furiously inflamed.
"We're not surprised that when we're frightened, our heart rate goes up," Heffner said. "So we shouldn't be surprised when organs, like the lungs, fail or malfunction through acute or long-term stress in the brain."