Societal ambivalence to allergies

A major survey earlier this year in the US by Harris Interactive (aka Harris polls) consulted more than 1,000 consumers (including allergy and non-allergy sufferers), 1,000 allergy sufferers and 300 physicians about attitudes to allergy.

The survey of consumers found that they view diabetes (81%), hypertension or high blood pressure (76%) and arthritis (57%) as more serious than indoor and outdoor allergies, while 29% of them viewed insomnia as more serious than indoor and outdoor allergies.

While 78% feel sorry for allergy sufferers, 36% believe that allergy sufferers overstate the severity of their symptoms and 30% say allergy sufferers use allergies as an excuse to get out of something.

The survey of allergy sufferers found that about half (48%) feel their spouse or significant other did not see their allergy as a serious health condition; 81% thought their relatives were equally dismissive, as were their friends (86%) and their the co-workers (78%). They were no more sanguine about their physicians: 74% thought that their physicians did not take them seriously although in the survey of physicians 83% thought allergies were more serious that insomnia, and 69% more serious than ostearthritis. A significant 84% also thought that allergy sufferers did not overstate their condition.

The survey of allergy sufferers also revealed that for 62% their symptoms impact their mood; 51% say they feel annoyed; 48% say they feel irritable and 42% say they feel frustrated. Twenty two per cent also report that their allergy symptoms make them feel less attractive and 19% feel self-conscious.

‘Societal ambivalence toward allergies has impacted the management of the disease,’ said David Lang, MD, Section Head Allergy/Immunology Respiratory Institute at Cleveland Clinic. ‘It's true that allergies aren't life threatening, but they are quality-of-life-threatening on both physical and emotional levels.’

First published in August 2008

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