Previous studies indicate that maternal anxiety is associated with asthma in the adolescent child, but mechanisms are unclear.
To investigate the association between maternal anxiety and maternal, self- and register-based report of asthma in the adolescent child, and whether the association remains after control of familial confounding (shared environmental and genetic factors).
From the Twin and Offspring Study of Sweden, 1691 mothers (1058 twins) and their adolescent child were included. The association between maternal self-reported anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) and Karolinska Scales of Personality (KSP) somatic or psychic anxiety) and asthma based on subjective (maternal or child report) or objective (register-based diagnosis and medication) measures were analysed using logistic regression. The children-of-twins design was used to explore whether genes or environment contribute to the association.
Maternal BAI anxiety (OR 2.02, CI 1.15–3.55) was significantly associated with adolescent asthma reported by the mother. Maternal KSP somatic anxiety (OR 1.74, CI 1.04–2.91) and psychic anxiety (OR 1.74, CI 1.05–2.86) was significantly associated with breathlessness reported by the adolescent child. In contrast, maternal anxiety was not associated with increased risk for the register-based outcomes of asthma diagnosis or medication. The results remained also after adjusting for covariates and the children-of-twins analyses which indicate that the association was due to familial confounding.
We found some associations between maternal anxiety and subjectively reported offspring asthma or breathlessness which may be due to familial effects. A likely candidate for explaining this familial confounding is heritable personality traits associated with both anxiety and subjective measures of asthma.