People with Depression at Higher Risk of Suffering 29 Other Health Conditions

Researchers found that certain health conditions are more common in people living with depression. We tell you about their findings.
People with Depression at Higher Risk of Suffering 29 Other Health Conditions
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 01 July, 2023

A recent scientific study published in the prestigious journal JAMA Psichiatry found a significant relationship between depression and almost 30 other diseases. According to the researchers, people with depression have a significantly higher risk of suffering from 29 conditions that require hospital care.

The data was collected from 240,433 patients from the United Kingdom and Finland. And while the results indicate that depression leads to other pathologies, it was also possible to corroborate that, conversely, at least 12 conditions lead to depression.

What health conditions are associated with depression?

The results published by the researchers found 29 health conditions associated with depression that required hospitalization. However, among them, there were some that were more prevalent than others:

  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Sleep disorders
  • Bacterial infections
  • Back pain or lumbago
  • Coronary ischemic disease

If the conditions are grouped according to the system or organs affected, the order of prevalence is as follows:

  • Endocrine diseases: 245 out of every 1000 people with depression participating in the study had diagnoses of endocrine pathologies, such as diabetes.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders: These occurred in 91 out of every 1000 people with depression. This includes low back pain.
  • Diseases of the circulatory system: These were recorded in 86 out of every 1000 people with depression.

Among the situations involving a bidirectional relationship, i.e., participating in a vicious circle in which depression increases the risk of these conditions and the conditions do the same for depression, the most notorious were suicide poisoning attempts and falls.

Why is depression a risk factor?

While this specific study links depression to health conditions that require hospitalization, we know that the problem also extends to other illnesses that don’t necessarily need to be resolved with hospitalization. According to a publication in Statpearls, people undergoing depressive states face the concomitant appearance of other mood disorders, such as anxiety.

In addition, if it’s a patient with arterial hypertension, there’ll be greater difficulty in achieving control of that disease. Worse still, there’s a high risk of entering the world of substance abuse and committing suicide attempts.

Depression is a risk factor for other health conditions by different mechanisms. For example, researchers know that depressed people are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s in the future. And they assume that this is so because the stress of the depressive state can generate inflammatory substances capable of damaging neurons.

As for diabetes, scientific studies on the subject speculate on a lifestyle that would favor metabolic disorders. That is, people living with depression tend to be more sedentary and to have a diet with a higher proportion of saturated fats and simple sugars.

This daily way of living would lead to alterations in glycemia.

If we focus on cardiac pathologies, a 2016 scientific publication explains that stress seems to be the cause. Depression activates cell oxidation mechanisms, which would affect the heart muscle and the blood vessels that feed it.

Chronically, the weakening of the cardiovascular system would make it more susceptible to heart attacks.

Can the risk be reduced?

The key question would be: what can we do to reduce the risk? Does suffering from depression condemn people to have other pathologies?

The good news is that timely treatment and adequate accompaniment decrease the chances of hospitalization for another health condition. A 2019 systematic review clarifies than at early approach significantly improves prognosis, especially if specialized guidelines are followed.

This point is very important. Treating depression to prevent other health conditions can’t be taken lightly.

Different organizations and expert groups have developed therapeutic guidelines based on available evidence. Consulting with a health professional who’s aware of them and knowledgeable about them will improve your chances of coping.

Depression isn’t just another symptom to be underestimated. Likewise, it’s also the responsibility of States to ensure that all people have access to mental health services.

Psicólogo para depresión
Professional support is indispensable to overcome a depressive condition.

What to do about lifestyle?

The authors of the JAMA Psychiatry study conclude that the behavior of people with depression is a major culprit in the onset of associated conditions. Smoking, alcoholism, and a lack of physical activity appear as situations that need to be changed.

So, if you have a diagnosis of depression, are on medication and in psychological treatment, and want to add something more on your part to reduce your risk, start with specific steps:

  • Quit substance-related harmful habits. Quit smoking and alcohol consumption. Ask for special help to do so.
  • Start a physical activity, at least 30 minutes a day. Walking may be enough to get you started.
  • Work out an adequate diet with a nutritionist, one which gives you enough energy and is made up of healthy products.

Of course it isn’t easy. But it is possible. Don’t do anything alone and don’t panic about the diseases you might suffer from. Rather, take matters into your own hands and reduce the risk.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.