Potential Benefits of Positive Emotion Intervention in Pediatric Asthma


Though no research on the effects of positive emotion intervention on children with asthma exist, investigators note that the methods have shown positive results in other health contexts.

Brooke N. Jenkins, PhD

Research from California suggested that positive emotion methodology could be effective in mitigating pediatric asthma symptoms.

Investigators led by Brooke N. Jenkins, PhD, considered positive psychology to be a “relatively new discipline” in the realm of pediatric asthma.

However, decades of research suggested multiple psychosocial factors (psychological and social variables such as stress and depression coupled with social levels like family discord and poverty) impact asthma symptoms.

In previous literature, positive emotion has been shown to improve health outcomes in health contexts such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, HIV, and stroke.

Additionally, the benefits of humor in patients with diabetes had also been studied.

The authors of the recent study argued that more work could be done to test the psychosocial factors that improve outcomes and the management of asthma in children, while promoting psychosocial factors and experiences that help young patients in the development process.

In their review, Jenkins and colleagues defined positive emotion before elaborating on the mechanisms behind the possible associations between positive emotion and asthma outcomes.

Defining Positive Emotion

Jenkins and fellow investigators stated that positive emotion was essentially emotion that were deemed pleasurable. Joy, happiness, calm, and excitement were the primary positive emotions discussed.

In the adult asthma literature, positive emotion had been tied to increases in forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1)as well as fewer asthma symptoms, and a reduced likelihood of respiratory tract infections.

However, no work had taken a positive psychology approach by focusing on how positive emotion in children may relate to lung function and asthma symptoms.

Mechanisms of Positive Emotion and Positive Emotion Interventions

Investigators noted that the Main Effect Model of Positive Emotion demonstrated strong support that positive emotion has health‐enhancing effects through its influence on protective health behaviors (sleep, routine medication use, adherence to self‐management behaviors) and health‐relevant physiological responses (better immune functioning, lower stress hormone levels, reduced inflammation, lower blood pressure).

Previous literature had shown that higher positive emotion is associated with better health behaviors and health‐relevant physiological functioning.

Interventions involving positive emotions had been utilized in samples of adults with breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, HIV, and even adults with asthma.

The interventions had been shown to be feasible and acceptable in clinical settings and could be delivered in‐person, over the phone, and online by trained facilitators.

Often, participants are taught to notice and savor positive events, express gratefulness towards others, engage in mindfulness, reappraise negative events in a positive light, and value their personal strengths.

Future Research

Investigators noted that virtually no research had extended positive emotion health models to the area of pediatric asthma. However, they believed future basic science work could assess simple associations between positive emotion and asthma over the course of several weeks or months.

Jenkins and colleagues believed positive emotion interventions provided a framework for future research, which they posed could be especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic had greatly increased concerns of families of children with asthma, with difficulties in obtaining medications and reduced access to care having been reported.

“Additionally, unanswered questions about contraction risk and disease severity of COVID‐19 in this population still remain,” the team wrote, “Taken together, positive emotion interventions may be a timely and theoretically grounded tool for helping to improve the lives of children suffering from asthma.”

The review, “Applying theoretical models of positive emotion to improve pediatric asthma: A positive psychology approach,” was published online in Pediatric Pulmonology.

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