Research, which lasted 19 years, clearly showed that atopic dermatitis brings not only physical discomfort and aesthetic problems. This disease is also associated with mental problems in adolescent children – depression and internalizing behavior, when the child becomes withdrawn, has low self-esteem and suffers from anxiety.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, causes redness, itching, and flaking of the skin. This chronic disease usually manifests itself in childhood and can accompany a person throughout his life – it cannot be completely cured. The prevalence of the disease in developed countries, according to various estimates, ranges from 10% to 20%
The relationship of atopic dermatitis with depression, anxiety, and behavioral problems has been studied before, but mostly in adult patients. Scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have summed up the largest and longest-running study evaluating the long-term effects of eczema on a child’s psyche.
The study began in 1990 with 11,000 children, each diagnosed with atopic dermatitis. During the observations, scientists periodically assessed the severity of the disease in all participants. The level of depression was measured on a five-point scale based on a questionnaire survey of parents of children aged 10 to 18 years.
Observations showed that at the age of 10 years, 6% of participants had depression, and by the age of 18, its prevalence increased to 21.6%. Girls suffered from this mental disorder more often than boys (56.8% versus 42.8%). The study authors noted that they were able to establish a link between depression and severe eczema. However, mild to moderate dermatitis has been correlated with behavioral problems as early as 4 years of age. According to scientists, this may be partly due to the deterioration in the quality of sleep in children, since eczema causes significant physical discomfort.
“As many new treatments for atopic dermatitis are being brought to the market, it is important to study their effects on sleep and mental health in pediatric patients,” the study authors wrote.