NEWS Mental Health News Chronic Physical Health Conditions Increase Depression Risk Later in Life, Study Shows By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice, who has worked for three academic institutions across Canada. Her essay, “Inclusive Reproductive Justice,” was in the Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. Learn about our editorial process Updated on July 19, 2021 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Nicholas Blackmer Fact checked by Nicholas Blackmer LinkedIn Nick Blackmer is a librarian, fact-checker, and researcher with more than 20 years’ experience in consumer-oriented health and wellness content. He keeps a DSM-5 on hand just in case. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print Key Takeaways Dealing with two or more physical long-term health conditions increases the risk of depression and anxiety. Respiratory and gastrointestinal/pain conditions were the strongest predictors of depression and anxiety. Dealing with a chronic health condition can take its toll. According to a recently published study in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe, navigating two or more physical long-term health conditions was associated with subsequent depression and anxiety concerns. With COVID-19 putting a necessary focus on health for many, this may be an opportune time to better understand the impact of multiple physical health conditions on one's ability to be functioning well mentally. Especially given how much more focus is often placed on physical health, as opposed to mental health, this research bodes well for greater outreach efforts to ensure that individuals have adequate mental health support. Understanding the Research Researchers looked at more than 150,000 middle-aged participants in England, Scotland, and Wales who had responded to an online mental health questionnaire in 2016 as part of the larger UK Biobank study. Their physical health had been assessed in earlier surveys conducted between 2006 and 2010. As the number of physical long-term health conditions increased in participants, the research demonstrated a greater likelihood for incidents of poor mental health, including persistent depression and anxiety. In terms of limitations, it can be difficult to ascertain causality from observational studies, and self-report brings some potential bias. Also, about 97% of the participants were White, so this study can’t tell us much about how ethnic minorities might be affected. Why Some People Are More Prone to Depression Than Others More Mental Health Support Needed Anthony Alan Thomalla, PhD, a licensed psychologist at ABC Resources, says, “The takeaway is that people do better when they have family support, spiritual support, and medical support including psychological.” While access to mental health counselors, ranging from social workers to psychologists in a primary care medical setting has grown in recent years, Thomalla highlights that such services still often remain insufficient. Thomalla says, “It is not surprising that people with multiple physical conditions struggle more as they enter a phase of their life when people tend to be more vulnerable and isolated. If you have multiple physical challenges it is important to monitor mental health as you age. It is easier to address issues when you see a little smoke as opposed to waiting for a five-alarm fire. If you do not address these issues as they arise they will devour physical reserves that you cannot afford to waste.” Anthony Alan Thomalla, PhD If you have multiple physical challenges it is important to monitor mental health as you age. It is easier to address issues when you see a little smoke as opposed to waiting for a five-alarm fire. — Anthony Alan Thomalla, PhD Grief Over a Healthy Body Psychologist Shamin Ladhani, PsyD, says, “Understanding that your physical health impacts your mental health means having self-awareness about how your chronic condition is impacting your life.” If there is difficulty coping with health decline, Ladhani encourages individuals to validate those feelings, as many people that develop a chronic condition go through a period of grieving over the loss of a healthy body. “The public needs to know that psychologists, specifically health and medical psychologists, have training and expertise that can help patients to manage and cope with chronic illness. We have studies that show that psychological techniques can improve blood flow, lower pain levels, reduce blood pressure, and lower blood sugar levels, just to name a few,” she says. Ladhani says, “It is not clear that this study takes into account how diverse populations are impacted, as often individuals from underserved or marginalized backgrounds are more at risk for developing chronic health and chronic mental health conditions, and the article does not look at or address other causes for the development of mental health issues." Shamin Ladhani, PsyD We have studies that show that psychological techniques can improve blood flow, lower pain levels, reduce blood pressure, and lower blood sugar levels, just to name a few. — Shamin Ladhani, PsyD What This Means For You As demonstrated by this research, navigating multiple physical long-term health conditions increases the risk of subsequent depression and anxiety challenges. Such findings reinforce the need for additional programs and services to be readily available to support mental health needs, especially when navigating chronic health issues. Especially given how aging can increase social isolation and vulnerability, mental health resources can be instrumental in prioritizing public health. How Pain and PTSD Occur Together 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Ronaldson A, Arias de la Torre J, Prina M, et al. Associations between physical multimorbidity patterns and common mental health disorders in middle-aged adults: A prospective analysis using data from the UK Biobank. Lancet Reg Health Eur. Published online June 22, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.lanepe.2021.100149 By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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