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Depressed People Have Higher Rates of Physical Illnesses

Posted Oct 03 2008 12:52pm

This article reports of research suggesting people with depression experience certain medical difficulties, above and beyond that accounted for by age, gender, and BMI.  In addition, due to higher levels of BMI (which may be due, in part to the depression), other difficulties are also more frequent in those with depression.  From the article:

It was found that 15 physical disorders were significantly more frequent in people with recurrent depression than in controls. However, when BMI, age and gender were taken into account, depression was found to predict 6 disorders - gastric ulcer, asthma, rhinitis, hypertension, thyroid disease and osteoarthritis.

For the remaining physical health problems - diabetes, epilepsy, hypercholesterolaemia (high blood fats), kidney disease, liver disease, heart attack, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and stroke - the difference between those with and without each disorder could be accounted for by BMI, age or gender.

Research like this is important for a number of reasons, including the fact that most people seek treatment for depression when their mood problems manifest physically.  As long as the problem is confined to the neck up, people are more likely to muddle along.  When the problem becomes physical, however, people are more likely to seek help.  This is why screening by general practitioners is crucial for the initial identification of depression, and encouragement by them for treatment of the depression. 

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