Recent data, primarily from Europe, suggest children with atopic dermatitis may be at increased risk of developing mental health disorders.
We aimed to quantify the mental health burden associated with pediatric atopic dermatitis in the United States.
A cross-sectional study design was used analyzing data from the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health – a survey reporting on the health status of 92,642 non-institutionalized children ages 0-17. The lifetime prevalence of various provider-diagnosed mental health conditions was calculated for those with and without a history of atopic dermatitis.
The odds of having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder was significantly increased in children with atopic dermatitis compared to non-atopic dermatitis controls, OR 1.87 (95% CI 1.54, 2.27) even after controlling for known confounders. The adjusted odds ratios for depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, and autism were 1.81 (95% CI 1.33,2.46) , 1.77 (95% CI 1.36, 2.29), 1.87 (1.46, 2.39), and 3.04 (95% CI 2.13, 4.34), respectively, and these estimates were all statistically significant. A clear dose-dependent relationship was observed between the prevalence of a mental health disorder and the reported severity of the skin disease.
Our data reveal a striking association between mental health disorders and atopic dermatitis in the U.S. pediatric population. The severity of the skin disease alters the strength of the association. Prospective cohort studies are needed to verify these associations and to explore underlying mechanisms. Strategies to prevent atopic dermatitis or to aggressively treat early skin inflammation may modify the risk of developing mental health disorders in at-risk children.