Higher stress levels make it more likely that an adult will develop asthma and hay fever, and are correlated with the presence of eczema, Danish scientists reported recently in the journal Allergy.
Stress has been shown to make the body's airways more sensitive to allergens, and intensify asthma symptoms. Similarly, it is generally known that stress can cause eczema flares--but the authors of this study wanted to show statistically that there was a link between stress and onset of atopic diseases in adults.
They drew on data from the Copenhagen City Heart Study, following 5648 adults in two assessments in 1981-83 and 1991-93 to see whether their self-reported stress levels at the first timepoint were correlated with the subjects developing asthma or hay fever in the interim.
Unfortunately the study's planners had neglected to have the subjects self-report eczema in 1981-83, so they just had information on eczema from 1991-93.
They found that subjects with "high," as compared to "low," self-reported stress had roughly doubled odds of developing asthma or hay fever.
Subjects with high stress had odds 75% higher of reporting eczema--although the authors do not mention that perhaps if you have eczema you are likely to feel more stressed.
However, the "atopic triad" of asthma, hay fever, and eczema tend to occur together in many people, so these findings are intriguing, and suggest that if you can reduce your stress by any means, you could also decrease your eczema symptoms--or never get it in the first place, if you are an adult who has risk factors such as relatives with eczema. I certainly know that if I am less stressed, my skin tends to be clear.