The latest research findings have uncovered that depression and anxiety are risk factors for heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, headaches, back pain, and upset stomach. The study found that depression and anxiety affect the body in a similar way to smoking and obesity, which can also lead to the aforementioned conditions.
Typical annual physical exams touch upon lifestyle habits to gauge someone’s health, but what is often left out is talks of a person’s mental health. Doctors not asking a patient if they’re anxious or depressed could cause them to overlook critical risk factors.
The study looked at over 15,000 older adults for four years. The participant’s health data was evaluated, and depression and anxiety symptoms were assessed using data from participant interviews.
Sixteen percent of participants suffered from high levels of depression and anxiety, 31 percent were obese, and 14 percent were current smokers.
Participants with high levels of depression or anxiety had a 65 percent higher risk of developing a heart condition, 64 percent risk of stroke, 50 percent risk of high blood pressure, and 87 percent risk for arthritis compared to those without depression or anxiety.
Researcher Aoife O’Donovan explained, “These increased odds are similar to those of participants who are smokers or are obese. However, for arthritis, high anxiety and depression seem to confer higher risks than smoking and obesity. Our findings are in line with a lot of other studies showing that psychological distress is not a strong predictor of many types of cancer. On top of highlighting that mental health matters for a whole host of medical illnesses, it is important that we promote these null findings. We need to stop attributing cancer diagnoses to histories of stress, depression and anxiety.”
Other symptoms like a headache, back pain, and upset stomach also increased among depressed and anxious participants.
The study suggests that mental health is a significant risk factor for other health conditions. Doctors should implement mental health-related questions into their annual physical examination of patients to get a better overall picture of a patient’s quality of health.
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