Anxiety among youth with food allergy

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of pediatric psychology




allergen exposure; anxiety; food allergy; risk; youth


OBJECTIVE: Anxiety is among the major psychological concerns for children living with food allergy (FA). Yet research exploring the variables driving anxiety symptoms in FA remains sparse, and most studies still utilize homogeneous samples to assess anxiety symptoms. The current study seeks to evaluate the rates of clinically significant anxiety symptoms among a diverse sample of youth with FA and examine whether a heightened risk perception of FA outcomes and FA burden (vs. FA medical history) is associated with anxiety in youth. METHODS: 94 youth ages 10-14 and their parents were recruited from FA clinics at a mid-Atlantic children's hospital. Both youth and parents completed demographic and FA medical history questionnaires, the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders, and the Food Allergy Independent Measure as part of a longitudinal study about FA adjustment and adherence. RESULTS: Over a third (37%) of youth scored above clinical cut-offs for overall anxiety symptoms. At least 25% of youth reported clinically significant scores on panic disorder, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, separation anxiety, and school avoidance subscales. Perception of risk of adverse FA outcomes and burden-but not FA medical history-were associated with total anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, and school avoidance symptoms, but not social anxiety and separation anxiety. Having more FAs was associated with higher social anxiety scores but not with other anxiety subscales. CONCLUSIONS: Youth with FA might benefit from psychosocial interventions that address FA risk perception management and promote appropriate FA vigilance to cope with anxiety symptoms.