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Mental Health Condition Linked to Autoimmune Disease

Aug 17, 2023 | Depression, Mental Health

A recently released study revealed that women with a history of depression are twice as likely to develop systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) compared to those without depression. Led by Andrea L. Roberts, PhD, from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the study aimed to investigate the correlation between depression and the risk of developing SLE.

Examining the Correlation Between Depression and Lupus Risk

Previous observations noted a higher prevalence of depression among individuals with autoimmune diseases, leading to suspicions of a potential association with lupus. To explore this further, Roberts and her team analyzed longitudinal data from two large cohorts of women to determine if depression increased the likelihood of new SLE diagnoses.

Longitudinal Study to Determine Depression’s Impact on Lupus Diagnosis

The study utilized data from the Nurses’ Health Study I and II, encompassing a total of 194,483 women. Among this population, 145 cases of SLE were examined. The findings revealed that women with a history of depression had double the risk of developing subsequent SLE compared to women without depression.

Study Findings and Associations with Known Risk Factors

The results add to the existing evidence indicating that depression may elevate the risk of lupus. Other studies have explored the relationship between depression and autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and Crohn’s disease. It is believed that depression’s biological inflammation contributes to increased vulnerability to autoimmune diseases.

Interestingly, lupus has few known risk factors, making the association with depression particularly significant. Surprisingly, the impact of cigarette smoking was found to be minimal in comparison. Additionally, the study examined various factors such as cigarette smoking, BMI, oral contraceptive use, hormone use, alcohol consumption, and diet to assess their influence on SLE risk in individuals with and without depression.

Implications for Early Detection of Lupus

The study’s findings can potentially aid in the early detection of lupus. Physicians may consider screening patients with depression or a family history of depression, as this could serve as an indicator for the presence of the autoimmune disease.

Encouraging Physical Health Improvement in Depressed Individuals

Depression and its impact on physical health behaviors play a crucial role in the development of lupus. Individuals with depression are encouraged to focus on improving their overall physical health. Making lifestyle changes, such as adopting a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise, may have benefits for both mental well-being and the reduction of inflammation associated with lupus.

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