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Baltimore Study Shows a Decrease in Asthma Symptoms in the Suburbs

— June 21, 2023

Urban communities are experiencing higher asthma rates among children than suburban and rural areas.

There is a strong, and yet sometimes mysterious, connection between financial resources and physical health. Those two things might seem to be somewhat disconnected, but that just isn’t the case. In many areas of health, having sufficient financial resources is associated with maintaining general wellbeing, while living in poverty can be connected to having more troubles from a health-wise. This type of connection has been found in the city of Baltimore when it comes to the asthma experienced by young people. A study of asthma symptoms and rates among kids in Baltimore revealed an interesting connection that could help policymakers better decide how resources should be deployed in the future. 

One of the difficulties in nailing down the impact on health evident between poverty and location is that it is hard to track people over an extended time and their circumstances tend to change. For this study, there were 123 children taking part, and researchers followed up with them for a year after the families moved. 

Baltimore Study Shows a Decrease in Asthma Symptoms in the Suburbs
Photo by cottonbro studio from Pexels

Prior to moving out of a low-income, urban environment, asthma was reported in around 15% of the kids dealing with at least one attack in a three-month period. During the follow-up period, that number had been nearly cut in half, to just over 8%. Not only did the total number of kids affected by asthma decrease, but those who were still experiencing asthma attacks tended to get them less often.

With asthma, people tend to think first about issues like allergens in the air that could cause an attack. But stress plays a surprisingly important role in asthma issues, and moving from an impoverished area in the city to a more comfortable suburban environment proved to relieve significant stress for the families involved. It is believed by the researchers in this study that a significant portion of the reduction in asthma attacks could be attributed to the lower stress levels rather than other factors. Moreover, there were additional resources to properly manage asthma symptoms in the suburbs.

Even when looking outside of the confines of this study, it is easy to see that the impact of living in a big city like Baltimore can be harmful to an individual’s health. Roughly one-third of children who live in Baltimore have been advised that they have asthma issues, but when looking at the rest of the state of Maryland, that number is only around one-quarter. For adults, asthma affects nearly 14% of children in the city and around 9% elsewhere in the state. It’s likely that stress, along with other environmental factors, can be blamed for these differences. 

Getting young people out of areas that have been badly impacted by poverty is beneficial for many reasons. In addition to improving their security and helping to open up opportunities for growth and success, making this move also appears to have a positive impact in the form of alleviating symptoms from asthma (and potentially other health conditions). These findings provide even more motivation to continue working toward better living situations for all young people. 


Poverty and Health – The Family Medicine Perspective (Position Paper)

Battle plan for Baltimore’s disproportionately high childhood asthma rates

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