An estimated 21 million adults in the United Kingdom currently suffer from an allergy (Mintel, 2010); this is over 20% of the UK population and is one of the highest prevalence rates in the world (Levy et al., 2004). Despite this, very little research has been carried out on adult food allergy sufferers. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the association between how an adult food allergy sufferer perceives their food allergy, the coping mechanisms they may adopt to manage their allergy and thus the impact this could have on their quality of life.
All participants of this study reported suffering from a food allergy(s), and were asked to complete a 20 question questionnaire which looked at their illness perception, quality of life and use of coping mechanisms and risk behaviours. Participants were recruited on a volunteer basis through the membership databases of: the Anaphylaxis Campaign, Allergy UK, Foods Matter and Action Against Allergy, and data was analysed using statistical analysis software. Ethical approval for this study was gained from the Department of Clinical Sciences & Nutrition Research Ethics Committee at the University of Chester.
Due to the relatively small number of participants in this undergraduate dissertation study, no statistically significant results were found. However, non-significant trends were observed, suggesting people who reported their quality of life to be affected by their food allergy were more likely to use coping mechanisms. Older participants, and those with a longer period of time since their allergy was diagnosed, were less likely to use coping mechanisms; as well those who reported higher uses of risk behaviours. The non-significant trends observed in this study were consistent with other research using a larger sample size, which has also examined the use of coping mechanisms among food allergy sufferers. (Knibb & Horton, 2008).
This study has raised a number of important questions, including how advice should be targeted in order to increase food allergy sufferer’s quality of life. It has also provided a basis for future research to further examine the impact food allergies may have on an individual’s use of coping mechanisms and their illness perception and quality of life. I wish to express my sincere thanks to the Anaphylaxis Campaign and its members who participated in this study, as without them I would not have been able to carry out this study.
3rd year Nutrition and Dietetics student at the University of Chester