Psychological pathways for the relationship between socioeconomic status and asthma in children

Research has shown a strong association between low socioeconomic status and poorer heath. Asthma, the most common chronic childhood condition, is more prevalent and more severe among children low in socioeconomic status. Although many factors have been proposed to explain the SES-asthma relationship (e.g. exposure to environmental allergens and irritants, gene by environment interactions, quality of medical care, etc.), these variables do not fully account for this relationship. Dr. Edith Chen is studying the role of psychological factors, such as stress, in explaining the SES and asthma relationship. She is testing whether children with asthma who have low socioeconomic status experience more stressful events and/or whether they have a tendency to interpret life events in a more threatening fashion than children from higher socioeconomic status, and ultimately whether stress helps to explain the connection between low socioeconomic status and poorer asthma outcomes. Some children with low socioeconomic status maintain good health despite adverse life circumstances. Dr. Chen is also examining whether children’s beliefs and supportive family and social networks can buffer children with asthma from the typical effects of low socioeconomic status on health. Results from this research may help improve the health of children with asthma.