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Food Allergy

Teenagers With Food Allergies Face Higher Rates of Depression, Anxiety, Study Finds

FerroMark Ferro. Photo: Courtesy McMaster University

Teenagers who have food allergies are more likely to have depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety, a new Canadian study suggests.

Mothers of adolescents with food allergies are often the ones who notice first that their children are having emotional and behavioral problems, researchers also found.

The study, which analyzed data on 1,300 Australian adolescents, showed that at 14 years old, approximately one-third of the teens with food allergy self-reported depression or other behavioral problems. When researchers examined the reports from mothers of the same teens, the number of those with depression or other mental health problems leapt to 46 percent.

“We don’t know whether the teens with food allergy are less likely to report problems themselves, or whether the mothers are over-reporting problems, but we do know that health professionals should take in several people’s perspectives when they are assessing these kinds of mental health problems,” said Mark Ferro, principal investigator of the study, in a press release.

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The research was led by a team at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, where Ferro is a professor of behavioural neuroscience and pediatrics in the school of medicine.

Researchers continued to track the same group of teenagers to age 21, and at that point, of those with food allergy, 44 percent said they’d experienced emotional and behavioral problems. Overall, that meant that those children with food allergy were about twice as likely to experience mental health problems than young people without food allergies.

“It’s also clear that these problems are not just a phase,” Ferro added. “Teens with food allergies are more likely to have mental health problems into adulthood.”

The study was published online in January in the journal Allergy.

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