Anxiety and stress in mothers of food-allergic children
Previous reports suggest that parents especially mothers of food-allergic children may have increased anxiety. Studies with an appropriate control group have not been undertaken, and the determinants of such anxiety are not known. We compared measures of anxiety and stress in mothers of food-allergic children and atopic non-food-allergic children, with anxiety and stress in mothers of children with no chronic illness.
Cross-sectional study of mothers attending a hospital appointment for their 8- to 16-year-old child. Mothers of children with food allergy, asthma but no food allergy or no chronic illness completed questionnaires including State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Perceived Stress Scale and measures of anxiety and psychologic adjustment in their child.
Forty mothers of food-allergic children, 18 mothers of asthmatic children without food allergy and 38 mothers of children with no chronic illness (controls) were recruited. Mothers of food-allergic children showed increased state anxiety – median anxiety score 38.0 (IQR 30.0, 44.0) food allergy, 27.0 (22.0, 40.0) control p = 0.012; and increased stress – median stress score 18.5 (12.0, 22.0) food allergy, 14.0 (7.5, 19.5) control p = 0.035. No significant differences were seen between mothers in the asthmatic group and controls. In multivariate analysis, previous food anaphylaxis (p = 0.008) and poorly controlled asthma (p = 0.004) were associated with increased maternal anxiety. Child anxiety and adjustment did not differ between food-allergic and control groups.
Mothers of food-allergic children have increased anxiety and stress compared with mothers of children with no chronic illness. Anaphylaxis and poorly controlled asthma are associated with maternal anxiety.