Studies have shown that chronic physical health conditions increase the risk of depression in later life

Key points

  • Dealing with two or more long-term physical health conditions can increase the risk of depression and anxiety.
  • Respiratory and gastrointestinal/pain conditions are the strongest predictors of depression and anxiety.

Dealing with chronic health conditions can cause losses.According to a recently published study Lancet Regional Hygiene-Europe, Controlling two or more long-term physical health conditions is related to subsequent depression and anxiety problems.

Since COVID-19 has given necessary attention to the health of many people, this may be a good time to better understand the effects of multiple physical health conditions on a person’s ability to function normally.

Especially considering that there is usually more attention to physical health than mental health, this research heralds greater outreach efforts to ensure that individuals receive adequate mental health support.

Understand the research

Researchers surveyed more than 150,000 middle-aged participants in England, Scotland and Wales who responded to online mental health questionnaires in 2016 as part of a larger UK Biobank study. Their physical health has been evaluated in an early survey conducted between 2006 and 2010.

As the number of participants’ long-term physical health increases, studies have shown that adverse mental health events are more likely to occur, including persistent depression and anxiety.

In terms of limitations, it is difficult to determine causality from observational studies, and self-reporting will bring some potential biases. In addition, approximately 97% of the participants were white, so this study cannot tell us how ethnic minorities may be affected.

Need more mental health support

Dr. Anthony Alan Thomalla, a practicing psychologist at ABC Resources, said: “The conclusion is that people do better when they receive family support, spiritual support, and medical support including psychology.”

Although access to mental health consultants (from social workers to psychologists in primary care medical settings) has increased in recent years, Thomalla emphasizes that such services are often still insufficient.

Thomalla said: “It’s not surprising that people with multiple physical conditions struggle more when they enter a more vulnerable and isolated life stage. If you have multiple physical challenges, monitor your mental health as you age. The condition is important. It’s easier to see a small amount of smoke to solve the problem than to wait for a level five fire. If you don’t solve these problems in time, they will devour physical reserves that you can’t waste.”

Anthony Allen Tomala, PhD

If you have multiple physical challenges, it is important to monitor your mental health as you age. It is easier to solve the problem by seeing a small amount of smoke than waiting for a level five fire.

— Anthony Allen Tomala, PhD

Sad for a healthy body

PsyD psychologist Shamin Ladhani said: “Knowing your physical health affects your mental health, which means being self-aware about how your chronic disease affects your life.”

If it is difficult to cope with the decline in health, Ladhani encourages individuals to verify these feelings, because many people with chronic diseases experience a period of grief for losing their health. “The public needs to know that psychologists, especially health and medical psychologists, have training and expertise that can help patients manage and cope with chronic diseases. Our research shows that psychological skills can improve blood flow, reduce pain, and lower blood pressure. And lower blood sugar levels, to name a few,” she said.

Ladhani said: “It is not clear whether this study takes into account the impact of different populations, because individuals from underserved or marginalized backgrounds are generally more likely to suffer from chronic health and chronic mental health conditions, and this article does not consider Or solve other reasons that cause mental health problems.”

Shamin Ladhani, PhD in Psychology

Our research shows that psychological techniques can improve blood flow, reduce pain levels, lower blood pressure, and lower blood sugar levels, to name a few.

— Shamin Ladhani, PhD in Psychology

What this means to you

As this study proves, managing multiple long-term physical health conditions increases the risk of subsequent depression and anxiety challenges. These findings reinforce the need for additional programs and services that are readily available to support mental health needs, especially when dealing with chronic health problems. Especially considering how aging increases social isolation and vulnerability, mental health resources can play a role in prioritizing public health.