Not Missing a Beat

Children with asthma keep up with peers in school

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Serious asthma can mean serious absences for school-aged children. Because of this, parents and teachers often worry children with asthma will lag behind their classmates in academic performance.

New research shows they might not have to worry.

A recent study from the United Kingdom looked at over 2,000 children with asthma and compared their performance on standardized tests with children without asthma. The researchers found that having asthma had no effect on children’s test scores in an urban neighborhood in London.

"Ask your pediatrician about the best asthma treatment."

Pat Sturdy of the Blizard Institute, part of Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom, led the study to find out if children with asthma performed differently than their peers without asthma in standardized tests.

The study’s authors were also interested in the role that ethnicity and socio-economic status played in children’s academic achievements, with or without asthma.

In order to do this, the researchers recruited 14 medical clinics in a low-income, multi-ethnic neighborhood of London to participate in the study. The research was conducted between July 2001 and June 2005.

Researchers collected data from 12,136 children who were patients at the clinics and had taken at least one national standardized test. Of these children, 2,206 were diagnosed with asthma.

Demographic information and test scores were collected from the children from their school records.

The ethnicity of 58.7 percent of the children was Bangladeshi. Over a quarter – or 26.5 percent – of the children were white. The remaining 14.8 percent of the children were reported as ‘other ethnicity’.

In addition, researchers collected information about the children’s “social adversity” level. This was determined based on the child or families’ enrollment in social benefits programs, including subsidized housing, food assistance and tax relief.

Most children lived in socio-economically deprived circumstances.

The study authors found no relationship between asthma and lower test scores, no matter how severe the asthma was. In fact, children with asthma had slightly better test performance than their peers without asthma.

“We found no evidence for an adverse effect of asthma or asthma severity on examination performance in this large cross-sectional study of children from a highly socio-economically deprived, multiethnic area,” the authors wrote.

Instead, the researchers found that ethnicity had more of an influence on academic performance than asthma. Bangladeshi children did significantly worse in the standardized tests than white children in the neighborhood that was studied.

Children registered as “other ethnicity” showed no difference with white students in their academic performance.

The study also revealed children with higher levels of social adversity did significantly worse in the tests than children from less deprived households, regardless of whether the child had asthma or not.

"We wanted to test whether asthma is linked with poorer academic achievement as this could affect a child's chances of success later on in life,” said co-author Chris Griffiths, professor of primary care at the Queen Mary University of London.

“Instead we found children with asthma did as well as, or slightly better than their peers in these tests,” he said.

The study was published on November 14 in the journal PLOS ONE.

This study was funded by Asthma UK.

The authors have reported no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 4, 2012
Last Updated:
December 18, 2012