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Free Content Symptoms related to the Sick Building Syndrome in a general population sample: associations with atopy, bronchial hyper-responsiveness and anxiety

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OBJECTIVE: The sick building syndrome (SBS) is a term mainly applied to irritative symptoms in the eyes, skin and upper airways that are experienced in certain environments. The aim of this study was to investigate the characteristics of subjects from the general population that report SBS-related symptoms.

METHODS: The study comprised a randomly selected population of 418 individuals aged 20–45 years. The subjects underwent a structured interview, skin prick tests, a methacholine provocation test and answered two questionnaires respectively assessing psychiatric status and the presence of SBS symptoms.

RESULTS: Eighty-seven subjects (21%) reported one or more SBS symptom weekly. Most common were general symptoms reported by 10% of the population. Female sex (odds ratio [OR] = 2.1), atopy (OR = 2.2) and anxiety (OR = 2.6) were significant independent risk factors for reporting at least one SBS-related symptom. Anxiety (OR = 3.2) and depression (OR = 4.4) were significant predictors for general symptoms, while bronchial hyperresponsiveness was a significant predictor for pharyngeal symptoms (dryness in the throat, sore throat and irritating cough) (OR = 5.4).

CONCLUSIONS: Sick building symptoms are common in the general population and among women, while atopy and anxiety increase the risk of reporting such symptoms. Psychological factors are mainly related to general symptoms, while bronchial hyperresponsiveness is connected with pharyngeal symptoms.

Keywords: anxiety; atopy; bronchial hyperresponsiveness; sick building syndrome

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Department of Lung Medicine and Asthma Research Centre, Uppsala University, Akademiska sjukhuset, Uppsala, Sweden 2: Department of Occupational Medicine, Uppsala University, Akademiska sjukhuset, Uppsala, Sweden

Publication date: December 1, 1998

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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