Largest ever UK study into perceptions on allergies uncovers hidden mental health and psychological impact
- Over half (53%) of people living with allergies in the UK regularly avoid social situations due to their allergy.
- Over half, (52%) of people feel they had to play down their allergies due to fear of judgement.
- 2 in 5 (40%) parents of children with allergies reported their child had experienced bullying due to a condition.
New data from the UK’s largest ever attitudinal survey towards allergies, conducted by Allergy UK, the leading patient charity for people living with allergic disease, found that over half (53%) of people living with allergies in the UK regularly avoid social situations due to their allergy.
The attitudinal survey, towards allergies, sought to gauge the attitudes and sentiment towards allergy sufferers, uncovered previously overlooked psychological impacts experienced by those living with allergies of all kinds.
Of the respondents suffering with allergies, over half, (52%) regularly felt they had to play down their allergies due to fear of judgement from family, friends or employer leading to feelings of fear, isolation and depression.
Parents of children with allergies also reported adverse effects on their mental health with over half, (54%) of parents reporting they felt very or extremely anxious about their child having an allergic reaction when eating out.
The survey also revealed that our perceptions of allergies are formed at an early age with 2 in 5 (40%) parents reporting that their child had experienced being teased or bullied about their condition, leading to a sense of feeling isolated due to allergies impacting their lives. Just under half (40%) of parents associated the word ‘isolating’ with their children’s allergy.
Elite disability gymnast and winner of 22 British titles, Natasha Coates, 26, is working with Allergy UK to help raise awareness of the hidden psychological impact allergies have on sufferers.
Natasha, who lives with multiple allergies says – “It’s hard to understate the sense of fear and isolation you can feel when living with a serious or life threatening allergy. The misunderstanding and perceptions of allergies can make everything from going out to dinner, to spending time with friends or even shopping deeply stressful and can often lead to feeling isolated and alone.
Over 60% of the UK population, approx. 41m people suffer from a form of allergy – ranging from hay fever, asthma and eczema to insect venom, food and drug allergies. Despite this, over a third (37%) believed that people exaggerate the severity of their allergy and 44% of workers with allergies said their condition had impacted their performance at work.
An allergy-free life is now the exception, not the rule. For many, the perception is that an allergy, like hay fever, is a minor and seasonal problem. However, this research, the largest study undertaken by an allergy patient organisation in the UK has highlighted the impact that negative perceptions and misunderstandings have on our allergic community, Carla Jones, CEO at Allergy UK
Allergy UK’s research forms the basis of its new campaign ‘It’s time for the UK to take allergy seriously’ which launches this week on online and social media on themes which highlight the psychological impacts of allergic disease. This is the first phase of a campaign which will also see the charity stepping up its work to improve the healthcare provision for people living with allergy.
As the leading charity, Allergy UK has for over 30 years has provided help, support and resources for people living with allergies, as well as education resources for healthcare professionals on the diagnosis and treatment of allergies. It also lobbies politicians and decision makers for improvements in the healthcare provision for people with allergies.
Our campaign reflects the most important things we have learnt about the lives of people living with allergy, from our research, from calls to our Helpline, from focus groups and from meeting members of our allergic community. It captures the reality of living with an allergic disease, and it asks the UK to take allergy seriously. We are calling for improved healthcare provision, better awareness in service industries and improved care standards in education environments for adults and children whose lives have been impacted by allergy.