According to a new study, individuals affected by mental health illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia may experience an increased incidence of tuberculosis (TB). The research was presented at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID).
Poor mental health has been previously shown to influence the immune system, but researchers are now looking into specific illnesses that could be a result. Tuberculosis and mental illness are both urgent global health priorities across the globe and have been known to co-exist.
This is what set Sally Hayward and colleagues at the Institute for Infection and Immunity, St George’s, University of London, in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Nottingham, and Columbia University to find out if mental illness plays a causal role in TB infection or increases the individual’s risk of developing the disease.
For the study, researchers screened data taken from 607,184 individuals across Asia, South America, and Africa over 50 years. Mood and psychotic disorders were analyzed, such as depression and schizophrenia.
It was found that both depression and schizophrenia were associated with an increased risk of developing active tuberculosis. Those with depression were found to be 15% more likely to have tuberculosis compared to those without depression, and schizophrenia was associated with a 52% increased risk of tuberculosis.
The study also went further in the analysis of 242,952 subjects who were from low and middle-income countries and found that individuals with tuberculosis were more than three times more likely to suffer from depression compared to people without the disease.
The authors of the study concluded, “Our data show that individuals with mental illnesses including depression and schizophrenia experience increased TB incidence and thus represent a high-risk population that could be targeted for screening and treatment. Integrated programs providing care for mental health and TB are needed, and interventions that tackle mental illnesses and their underlying drivers may help reduce incidence of TB globally.”
An Increase in Tuberculosis
This study helps to show the relationship between mental health conditions and TB. Researchers believe that mental health may play a causal role in increasing tuberculosis, potentially through its effect on the immune system.
With a growing concern about mental health worldwide, more research is needed to link any potential health conditions that could have a higher risk. Health care providers are urged to help address the global burden of mental illness and approach mental and physical health holistically when possible.