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Major Depression and Allergy: Does Neuroticism Explain the Relationship?

Goodwin, Renee D. PhD, MPH; Castro, Mario MD, MPH; Kovacs, Monika MD

doi: 10.1097/01.psy.0000195797.78162.f4
Original Articles
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Objective: To determine the association between major depression, neuroticism, and self-reported allergy among adults in the community.

Methods: Data were drawn from the Midlife Development in the United States Survey, a nationally representative sample of 3,032 adults age 25 to 74. ANOVA and multiple logistic regression analyses were used to determine the association between depression and allergy and the role of neuroticism in these relationships. These links were also examined by gender.

Results: Among adults in the community, major depression was associated with a significantly increased likelihood of allergy (odds ratio [OR], 1.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.14–1.98). Higher levels of neuroticism were also significantly associated with increased likelihood of allergy (OR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.04–1.43). Among women, major depression was associated with a significantly increased likelihood of allergy (OR, 1.67; 95% CI, 1.15–2.41), and this relationship persisted after adjusting for demographic characteristics and neuroticism. Among men, there was no significant relationship between allergy and depression, yet neuroticism was related to allergy (OR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.42–1.82), which persisted after adjustment for depression.

Conclusion: These data are consistent with results of previous studies showing an association between major depression and allergy among adults and extend these data by providing preliminary evidence suggesting that this association is specific to women and independent of the effects of neuroticism among women. In addition, the data provide preliminary evidence that neuroticism may be related to allergy among men, though no link between depression and allergy was found among men. Future research with prospective, longitudinal studies is needed next to understand the possible biological underpinnings of these associations.

MIDUS = Midlife Development in the United States; CIDI = Composite International Diagnostic Interview; CIDI-SF = Composite International Diagnostic Interview Short Form.

From the Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY (R.D.G.); Department of Pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, MO (M.C.); and Semmelweis Institute, Budapest, Hungary (M.K.).

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Renee D. Goodwin, PhD, MPH, Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 1051 Riverside Dr., Unit 43, New York, NY 10032. E-mail: rdg66@columbia.edu

Received for publication July 22, 2004; revision received July 22, 2005.

Copyright © 2006 by American Psychosomatic Society
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