Researchers have found that depression in young people is often followed by arthritis and diseases of the digestive system, while skin diseases are common after anxiety disorders. The findings suggest that mental disorders are antecedent risk factors of certain physical diseases in early life, but also vice versa, according to the researchers.
“Our results expand the relevance of mental disorders beyond mental to physical health care, and vice versa, supporting the concept of a more integrated mental-physical health care approach, and open new starting points for early disease prevention and better treatments, with relevance for various medical disciplines,” the study said.
The research group led by Marion Tegethoff in collaboration with Professor Gunther Meinlschmidt from the University of Basel in Switzerland examined the temporal pattern and relationship between physical diseases and mental disorders in children and young people. They analysed data from a representative sample of 6,483 teenagers from the US aged between 13 and 18.
The researchers noted that some physical diseases tend to occur more frequently in children and adolescents if they have previously suffered from certain mental disorders. Likewise, certain mental disorders tend to occur more frequently after the onset of particular physical diseases.
Affective disorders such as depression were frequently followed by arthritis and diseases of the digestive system, while the same relationship existed between anxiety disorders and skin diseases, showed the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Anxiety disorders were more common if the person had already suffered from heart disease. A close association was also established for the first time between epileptic disorders and subsequent eating disorders. The results offer important insights into the causal relationship between mental disorders and physical diseases.