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Anxiety and panic fear in adults with asthma: prevalence in primary care

Cindy L Cooper1*, Glenys D Parry1, Carol Saul1, Alyn H Morice2, Bruce J Hutchcroft3, Julia Moore1 and Lisa Esmonde1

Author Affiliations

1 ScHARR, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

2 Academic Department of Medicine, University of Hull, Cottingham, UK

3 Department of Respiratory Medicine, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust, Sheffield, UK

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BMC Family Practice 2007, 8:62  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-8-62

Published: 26 October 2007



Patients may find it difficult to distinguish between the symptoms of anxiety and those of asthma. Findings are equivocal on whether there is a specific link between anxiety and asthma. The aims of this study were to i) to identify the prevalence of anxiety, depression and panic fear in adults with asthma compared with that of the general population ii) to investigate whether there is a specific relationship between asthma and anxiety.


An epidemiological survey of 872 adults with a diagnosis of asthma identified from six General Practices in Sheffield, England. Community postal survey using self-completion questionnaire.


The response rate was 59%. People with asthma had higher mean Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) anxiety scores than UK norms with a higher proportion above the clinical cut-off. Mean HADS depression scores were significantly higher than UK norms and norms for a general population sample of people registered with the same practice. These effects were age-related with the relationship between asthma and psychological distress most marked over the age of 45. The prevalence of asthma-specific panic fear was 15.7%.


A significant minority of people have high levels of panic fear (as measured by the Asthma Symptom Checklist) associated with asthma. However, in adults with asthma there is also high prevalence of both generalised anxiety and depression (as measured by the HADS), suggesting that the link of anxiety to asthma may be part of a broader relationship between psychological distress and chronic disease rather than a specific one.