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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Nov;128(5):970-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2011.06.040. Epub 2011 Aug 6.

Resilience in low-socioeconomic-status children with asthma: adaptations to stress.

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Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.



Low socioeconomic status (SES) is a strong predictor of many health problems, including asthma impairment; however, little is understood about why some patients defy this trend by exhibiting good asthma control despite living in adverse environments.


This study sought to test whether a psychological characteristic, the shift-and-persist strategy (dealing with stressors by reframing them more positively while at the same time persisting in optimistic thoughts about the future), protects low-SES children with asthma.


One hundred twenty-one children aged 9 to 18 years with a physician's diagnosis of asthma were recruited from medical practices and community advertisements (mean age, 12.6 years; 67% male; 61% white). Shift-and-persist scores and asthma inflammation (eosinophil counts and stimulated IL-4 cytokine production) were assessed at baseline, and asthma impairment (daily diary measures of rescue inhaler use and school absences) and daily peak flow were monitored at baseline and at a 6-month follow-up.


Children who came from low-SES backgrounds but who engaged in shift-and-persist strategies displayed less asthma inflammation at baseline (β = 0.19, P < .05), as well as less asthma impairment (reduced rescue inhaler use and fewer school absences; β = 0.32, P < .01) prospectively at the 6-month follow-up period. In contrast, shift-and-persist strategies were not beneficial among high-SES children with asthma.


An approach that focuses on the psychological qualities that low-SES children develop to adapt to stressors might represent a practical and effective starting point for reducing health disparities. Moreover, the approaches that are effective in low-SES communities might be different from those that are optimal in a high-SES context.

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