Don’t Let Illness Get You Down

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Depressive and anxiety symptoms high in people with osteoarthritis and diabetes

March 1, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) Lifestyle changes involved in treatment of long-term illnesses can take a toll. People with the biggest, long-term lifestyle changes may have the toughest time coping.

A recent study looked at the rates of depressive and anxiety disorder symptoms in people with a chronic physical illness.

The results of the study showed that people with osteoarthritis or diabetes were twice as likely to have long-term depressive or anxiety symptoms compared to people with other chronic physical illnesses.

"Talk to your doctor about any depressive or anxiety symptoms."

Marloes M. Gerrits, MD, from the Department of Psychiatry and General Practice at EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, led an investigation into chronic illness in relation to depression and anxiety.

For the study, researchers looked at 2,981 participants between the ages of 18 and 65 from an ongoing study on depression and anxiety.

At the start of the study, all participants were tested for major depressive disorder, dysthymia (less severe chronic depression), panic disorder, social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder.

After two years, 1,209 participants with a depressive or anxiety diagnosis were evaluated for any chronic physical illnesses they were having treated by a doctor.

The categories of chronic physical illness included:

  • Cardio and metabolic diseases (stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack)
  • Respiratory (asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis)
  • Musculoskeletal (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia)
  • Digestive (ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, colitis, hepatitis, constipation, liver disease)
  • Neurological (migraine headaches, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, hernia, nerve damage)
  • Endocrine (thyroid dysfunction)
  • Cancer

Of the participants diagnosed with depressive or anxiety disorders at the start of the study:

  • 62 percent still had depressive or anxiety disorder symptoms
  • 28 percent reported having one chronic physical illness
  • 16 percent reported having two or more chronic physical illnesses

People with musculoskeletal disease, especially osteoarthritis, were twice as likely to have depressive or anxiety disorder symptoms at the two-year mark.

The researchers found that people with musculoskeletal disease and diabetes had a worse time with depressive and anxiety disorders compared to people with other types of chronic physical illness.

“Osteoarthritis is generally characterized by a slowly progressive decline in physical and social role functioning and lifestyle adjustments, as a consequence of pain of the joints and disability,” said the authors.

The authors suggested that the dysregulation of blood sugar and metabolism, along with physical inactivity and poor self-care could contribute to depressive and anxiety symptoms in certain people with diabetes.

This study was published in January in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

This project was funded by The Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development, the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction and participating universities and mental health care organizations. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
February 26, 2013
Last Updated:
August 15, 2013