Multiple Physical Morbidities Tied to Later Mental Health Disorders

People with two or more physical health conditions are at higher risk for developing depression, anxiety

FRIDAY, July 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) — People with two or more physical health conditions are at greater risk of developing depression and anxiety later in life, according to a study published online June 22 in The Lancet Regional Health: Europe.

Amy Ronaldson, Ph.D., from King’s College London, and colleagues assessed specific patterns of physical multimorbidity (two or more physical long-term conditions) and their association with mental health disorders in middle-aged adults. Analysis included 154,367 middle-aged adults enrolled in the UK Biobank with baseline physical assessment (2006 to 2010) and depression and anxiety assessment at follow-up in 2016.

The researchers found that compared to those with no physical multimorbidity, having two (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.41), three (aOR, 1.94), four (aOR, 2.38), and five or more (aOR, 2.89) physical conditions was prospectively associated with incident depression at follow-up in a dose response manner. Trends were similar for incident anxiety, persistent depression, and persistent anxiety. Respiratory multimorbidities (aOR, 3.23) and pain/gastrointestinal multimorbidities (aOR, 2.19) emerged as the strongest predictors of incident depression. Results were similar for incident anxiety.

“The finding that the different patterns of physical health conditions confer different levels of risk of later developing depression and anxiety could help inform services as to which patients require which kind of support,” a coauthor said in a statement. “Further research is needed to investigate the mechanisms that link the different clusters with depression and anxiety, which can ultimately help us to develop better approaches to supporting those with long-term conditions better and providing more integrated care.”

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