Articles, Blog

Your Asthma and Allergies Aren’t Causing Mental Illness

January 15, 2020

[ INTRO ] Earlier this week, you might’ve noticed
headlines about how having asthma or hay fever can increase your risk of developing a mental
illness. But you don’t have to worry and run off
to your doctor. These headlines are reporting on a study published
this week in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. And if you take a closer look at that paper,
the results aren’t as clear — or dramatic — as they might seem. Your body is one giant interconnected system,
so it makes sense that some diseases might be related or have the same root cause. Researchers have spent a lot of time looking
into this idea, especially when it comes to psychiatric disorders and allergies. Allergies are when your immune system overreacts
to something harmless, like animal dander, and treats it like a threatening invader. And some studies have suggested that the stress
or inflammation from how our bodies fight allergens could throw off brain chemistry. Admittedly, the research is ongoing, and a
lot of things are up for debate. But if it’s true, and if we understood how
that connection worked, we could maybe prevent some mental illnesses. So far, studies have mostly focused on links
between specific conditions — like schizophrenia and being allergic to things like pollen. What’s special about this new paper is that
it looked at the likelihood of someone with certain allergies developing any psychiatric
disorder. Specifically, this team looked at patients
who had three of the most common allergic diseases: asthma; allergic rhinitis, which
is sometimes called hay fever; and atopic dermatitis, which is a kind of eczema. Using a national database from Taiwan, the
team collected 15 years of health data from over 180,000 patients. Almost 47,000 had these allergic diseases,
and around 140,000 didn’t. Then, the team calculated how many people
with allergies were /also/ diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder over that decade and
a half — something like anxiety or depression. And the results were kind of surprising. They found that almost 11% of those with allergies
developed some kind of psychiatric disorder, while only about 7% of the control group did. In general, that meant the people with allergies
were statistically about 1.66 times more likely to develop a mental illness over that 15 years. Now, just because these data suggest that
these conditions might be related doesn’t mean that one causes the other, or that they
definitely come as a pair. For instance, the team also found that those
who just had eczema, or who had hay fever and eczema together, actually had a lower
risk of developing psychiatric disorders than the control group. Also, the data from this study came from only
one population, so it might not be representative of everyone. Besides, a risk factor of 1.66 really isn’t
that high, especially if you compare it to the risks associated with things like genetics. So it’s not actually that alarming. Not to mention, scientists still have to figure
out the mechanisms that could link allergies to mental illnesses — which this study didn’t
look at. So if you get sniffly in the springtime, don’t
worry about your health any more than you normally would. On a much smaller scale, a team of researchers
announced on Monday in the journal Nature Chemistry that they’ve found a new form
of DNA hiding in your cells! It’s called an i-motif. And it’s not, like, changing how we think
about humans as a species or anything. But it can help us understand how our DNA
gets processed in our cells. When you think of DNA, you probably think
of the textbook double-helix structure, which was discovered in the 1950s. But for a while, scientists have known that
strands of DNA come in at least a couple other shapes. Instead of looking like a twisted ladder,
the i-motif looks like one strand of DNA got tangled in a knot. To make that happen, DNA’s building blocks
— called nucleotides — pair together in a weird way. Normally, cytosine bases always pair up with
guanine. But in the i-motif form, cytosine pairs with
other cytosines. I-motifs form in parts of DNA that are cytosine-rich. Part of one DNA strand folds over itself and
gets bunched up, so the other strand is alone. It kind of looks like one side of a zipper
got twisted into a knot. This happens because one of the cytosines
gets an extra proton from its environment and becomes slightly positively charged, while
the other stays neutral. So they can bind. Researchers had observed the i-motif structure
before in test tubes, but now, we’ve seen it in a few kinds of living human cells! Like epithelial cells, which do things like
line your organs. To track down this elusive DNA, the team designed
a new antibody fragment from pre-existing molecules. Antibodies are proteins your immune system
uses to track down invaders, so they’re really good at binding to specific substances. This one was made to cling to i-motif’s
funny structure, and to glow under certain lights so the scientists could know where
it was. And it worked like a charm! After tracking the i-motifs for a bit, the
team also realized why they might’ve been hard to find: these structures don’t exist
all the time. Mainly, i-motifs form during the G1 phase
of the cell cycle, when DNA is being read by other molecules to make proteins and get
ready for cell division. Once that phase is over, most i-motifs seem
to go away. Although it’s not clear if the DNA changes
shape by itself, or if another molecule helps untangle it. Either way, this suggests that i-motifs are
mainly involved in helping dividing cells express certain genes and make certain proteins. So even though it’s been over 50 years since
we first discovered the main structure of DNA, we’ve still got so much to learn about
it. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! We’re able to bring you new science news
every week thanks to support from our Patreon patrons, like Matthew Brant, our president
of space! If you’d like to be president of space,
submit questions for us to answer, or join us in our monthly hangout, you can go to [ OUTRO ]


  • Reply Fufubunny Iz100 April 29, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Correlation is not causation. Ffs.

  • Reply Tetra Sky April 29, 2018 at 12:46 am

    I have spring time allergies… and fall allergies as well. I'm sneezing and got a stuffy nose all year around, except for that one or two month of winter where everything is frozen solid… in those months I catch colds and sinusitis, so it ain't any better.

  • Reply J P April 29, 2018 at 3:33 am

    Mental illness, as it pertains to the American narrative, is completely stupid

  • Reply itsthevoiceman April 29, 2018 at 4:54 am

    They should just talked to me about allergy related mental illness. I have no allergies, but I have anxiety, depression, PTSD, and ADHD.

  • Reply Nina Gabi April 29, 2018 at 5:17 am

    I wooooould have never thought that was even related in the first place, that seems like a reach.

  • Reply MetalTimster April 29, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Getting your news from social media causes mental illness

  • Reply Mikerphone April 29, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    Allergies make me depressed.

  • Reply Victor Popov April 30, 2018 at 5:26 am

    Who do i believe, scientists who devoted their live to work over 15 years, or 1 random guy from a media platform such as youtube.

  • Reply Cate Brooks April 30, 2018 at 5:48 am

    How 'bout this: pollen allergies, the ones I suffer from, make you TIRED. I think that has a LOT to do with the appearance of a mental dysfunction.

  • Reply Ken O April 30, 2018 at 6:35 am

    Probably, people with very annoying allergies have already been to an allergist and therefore are more likely to seek professional help for mental issues -than those people with no allergies.

  • Reply Julia Prohaska April 30, 2018 at 7:31 am

    Or the allergic people were more paranoid about health in general and more likely to go to a psychiatrist than healthy people.

  • Reply ego bruiser April 30, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Keep Calm and Sneeze On!

  • Reply thes7274473 April 30, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    Wish people would apply this level of critical thinking to claims about vaccinations increasing the risk of autism and circumcision reducing the risk of STIs and other maladies.

  • Reply JNCressey April 30, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Possible mechanism:

    Allergy could make you uncomfortable all the time. Being uncomfortable all the time makes you sad all the time. Then being sad all the time makes you depressed.

  • Reply Jeremy H April 30, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    "worked like a charm" which, by scientific consensus doesn't work. I think it's time we stopped using language about fantastical constructs to talk about scientific achievements. It seems that they are often invoked when speaking about something you can't see, but needs to be imagined. I don't ever remember someone talking about a bridge or a building in these terms. Thoughts?

  • Reply Khayre Tyler April 30, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    I have been saying this since the “vaccines cause autism” begining!!!

  • Reply PMW3 May 1, 2018 at 1:17 am

    yeah, but seasonal allergies are driving me crazy

  • Reply Business Chicken May 1, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Wow, allergies themselves causing mental illness is about the dumbest thing I've ever heard as a man with multiple diagnoses of different mental health "conditions" and no actual allergies to speak of. The closest this comes to being actual science is how allergies may cause stress which over time takes the form of almost all mental illnesses we know of today, in some form or fashion. My apologies for the run on sentence.

  • Reply Brooke R May 3, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    I have asthma and lots of other allergies and I also have depression and really bad anxiety so this doesnt surprise me at all

  • Reply ADYKJOP GARBAG May 5, 2018 at 4:41 am

    allergies –> sleep apnea –> mental illness

  • Reply JennaBeelack May 5, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    as always, correlation does not equal causation.

  • Reply MrMegaPussyPlayer May 6, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    3:09 Yes, it does … because that proves that the second coming was already … and Steve Jobs our creator went back to heaven without anyone …
    List of things Jobs done:

    … man I really had to make this joke.

  • Reply Justin Ruiz May 17, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    If we can build an anitbody fom scratch, then maybe we could take the antibody and the bacteria/fungi/virus and make a vaccine out of it. It basically cuts the injection process all together if it's done a certain way.

  • Reply Player Review May 21, 2018 at 5:06 am

    There is something depressing about the idea of living with asthma and allergies.

  • Reply Ben Hansell May 21, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    I'm glad you had the integrity not to title this "Are Your Asthma and Allergies Causing Mental Illness?"

  • Reply Shirin Rose May 25, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Anyone else come here from hankschannel?

  • Reply the night hAunter f88k the 1%!! PRIVACY OR gen8cide May 29, 2018 at 7:33 am

    am… am I gunna turn into a nute?😣

  • Reply Deon-i Peach June 11, 2018 at 9:53 am

    When I am struggling to breathe, it triggers a panic attack and I have to take a xanax to calm down😥

  • Reply Waleed March 8, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    How it might lead to a mental illness could be explained by underlying mechanism,
    Think of allergy as if it is a chronic pain, it can cause stress, stress can lead to anxiety and depression plus the medications used to treat allergies are somewhat related to antipsychotics and antidepressents and even benzos, in terms of their side effects and slight resemblance in mechanism of action

  • Reply XAVERIO MUÑOZ June 2, 2019 at 9:14 am


    The psycho-immune and emotional aspects are a fundamental complement to the drugs used for asthma and respiratory allergies to pollen, dust, mites, cats ..

    Practicing 5 minutes of the psychophysical exercises of the INDALO CODEX method, many people suffering from respiratory allergies or asthma managed to breathe well all year round. In the book “ASTHMA AND ALLERGY” and in the app for IOS and Android, you will discover the 5 keys to the spontaneous remission of respiratory allergies and asthma.

  • Reply Yoyo Ma December 18, 2019 at 5:01 pm


  • Reply Yoyo Ma December 18, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    allergies can and do affect the brain badly. jordan peterson and his daughter mikayla cured their severe arthritis and horrible depression from having a restricted diet.

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