Youth with asthma at double mental health risk

With youth weeks rolling out across the country in April, pharmacists are being asked to better support young people with asthma

Asthma Australia is encouraging both pharmacists and doctors to help offer these patients better support.

In a national youth survey commissioned by Asthma Australia, participants showed double the risk of mental health issues in comparison to their counterparts without asthma.

Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman said the organisation has developed an app, alongside the University of Sydney, called Kiss My Asthma. 

The app aims to tackle poor health and wellbeing rates in young people aged 12 – 24 years living with asthma by helping them better manage and understand their condition.

“If you’re treating a young person with asthma, please take time to talk about any mental health concerns they might be facing,” Ms Goldman suggested to pharmacists and doctors.

“The Kiss my Asthma App is a useful tool patients can have on their phone, to assist in their asthma medication adherence and provide additional support for mood and symptom tracking,” she said.

“They can use the app to log their asthma symptoms and asthma attacks over time which is useful for reviewing medication, triggers and keeping asthma action plans on hand.”

Asthma Australia cited research which shows that in young people, the health and wellbeing impacts of having a chronic illness such as asthma are heightened by the social, psychological and developmental challenges posed by adolescence.

Of those who completed the survey, almost all respondents had poorly controlled asthma despite thinking it was well controlled, and three quarters had interrupted sleep due to symptoms.

“Asthma Action Plans do make a difference, by helping people understand when their asthma is getting worse and what they can do, so please develop one together with your patients,” Ms Goldman said. “They can add upload it into the app to have with them at all times.”

Just over a third of survey respondents had an Asthma Action Plan.

Ms Goldman said that the second top reason young people don’t take their medications daily is their doctor didn’t recommend it.

“If you think your patient needs extra support, please refer them to our organisation, we have the time to provide comprehensive information which helps them better understand asthma, and makes them more likely to follow medical advice provided by doctors,” she said.

The impacts of asthma in young people extended to work life, social life, sport and study with one respondent, a 19 year old male from Queensland, saying “My boss needs to understand asthma when I am late for my part time job.”

Ms Goldman said adolescence is appreciated as a critical period in life where future patterns of behaviour, including health promoting behaviours, set in. 

“Through our national survey we found internet options for health advice are preferred by young people compared with other interventions, so we set about providing a digital tool for young people. 

“The Kiss My Asthma App is free and accessible,” she said.

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