Healthy living

Facebook stress triggered asthma

Facebook stress triggered asthma A new asthma trigger?

Should Facebook be added to the list of known asthma triggers?

Writing in today's Lancet journal, Italian doctors report the case of an 18-year-old-man who suffered asthma attacks after logging onto Facebook.

The teenager in question was depressed due to his girlfriend breaking up with him. She also deleted him from her list of friends on Facebook, while “friending” many new young men.

The young man gave himself a new nickname and managed to succeed in becoming her Facebook friend once more. However, the sight of her picture on her Facebook profile seemed to bring on breathlessness, and occurred "repeatedly".

To test this, the young man's expiratory flow - the force at which he breathes out - was measured before and after logging onto Facebook. The doctors found the teenager's repiratory flow dropped by as much as 20 per cent after a Facebook session.

It was thought that the psychological stress associated with reading his ex-girlfriend's Facebook pages triggered the asthma attacks.

With help from a psychiatrist, the young man was persuaded not to use Facebook and the asthma attacks stopped.

The doctors from the High Speciality Hospital in Naples concluded: “This case indicates that Facebook, and social networks in general, could be a new source of psychological stress, representing a triggering factor for exacerbations in depressed asthmatic individuals.

"Considering the high prevalence of asthma, especially among young people, we suggest that this type of trigger be considered in the assessment of asthma exacerbations.”

This article was published on Fri 19 November 2010

Image © Alex Bramwell -

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