This article is part of MPR’s coverage of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting, being held virtually from November 13-15, 2020.

Because of the prevalence of behavioral health (BH) issues in elderly patients with asthma, appropriate BH treatment may improve patient outcomes, according to research presented at the American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting.

Researchers used data from the 2010 Medicare 5% sample in patients aged 65 years and older to identify individuals with asthma and 4 different BH conditions (substance abuse disorder [SUD], anxiety, depression, and psychotic disorders based on International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision criteria). A group of individuals without asthma (the reference group) with matching propensity scores for age, gender, and race (P =1.0) and an equal reference size, was used for comparison.

Overall, the prevalence of asthma was 3.73% (n=38,087 of 1,021,399). The incidence of asthma in patients with SUD was 9.18% vs 5.34% without asthma (percent ratio, 1.72; P <.0001); asthma incidence in patients with anxiety was 1.89% vs 1.26% without asthma (percent ratio, 1.50; P <.0001); asthma incidence in patients with depression was 0.18% vs 0.08% without asthma (percent ratio, 2.25; P =.002); and asthma incidence in psychiatric disorders was 1.05% vs 1.19% without asthma (percent ratio, 0.88; P =.211).

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The results indicate a need for public policy and health plan design to emphasize BH screening for patients with chronic asthma, including the Medicare population. Because of the associations between BH and asthma, researchers suggested “proactive screening for BH conditions followed by appropriate treatment will likely improve patient outcomes,” particularly since BH issues can increase the frequency and severity of symptoms and affect treatment compliance.

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Zeng Z, Orfan N, Carneal G, Wilson T. Asthma and behavioral health conditions in the elderly. Presented at: the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting (Virtual Experience); November 13-15, 2020. Abstract P230.

This article originally appeared on Pulmonology Advisor