Mental and physical health are increasingly being treated in combination. Some mental disorders are not without physical components, and physicians are finding that there is a high risk of mental health problems among those dealing with certain types of illness. For instance, eating disorders and substance use disorders are mental health issues, but they are characterized by important physical symptoms.
Recent studies have identified an increased risk of inflammation detected in the blood among patients diagnosed with depression. While evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship between inflammation and depression requires more research, investigators suspect that the two conditions may be related. The research is leading experts to believe that inflammation may be an indication of the physical impact of depression.
A new study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London has provided evidence that inflammation may be connected with depression, but may also be the link between depression and diabetes. The researchers found that individuals with a diagnosis of both depression and diabetes tended to have higher levels of inflammation in their blood when compared with those who were diagnosed with diabetes only.
The researchers recruited 1,227 individuals recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The patients that had been diagnosed with depression in addition to diabetes tended to be younger and heavier, as well as to have more circulatory issues, more heart problems and raised inflammatory markers in the blood. The findings were published in the journal Diabetes Care.
The research team, led by Dr. Khalida Ismail, wondered why depression tended to be particularly dangerous for diabetes patients. The study results may explain the connection through inflammatory marker in the blood. Inflammation may be responsible for a variety of problems in these patients, and may also provide clues for how physicians should begin to examine the health concerns of both the mind and the physical body.
The researchers examined the participants, evaluating age, sex, body fat and the use of medications. The team found that several of the inflammation markers were associated with depression. Experts have not been able to determine yet how depression and inflammation are related. The inflammation may trigger depression symptoms, but scientists have not been able to provide evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that those with diabetes have twice the risk of developing depression. Individuals with depression are also more likely to develop diabetes. Further research is needed to determine whether one condition causes the other.
The findings may lead to the consideration of biological markers that could explain connections between other conditions. For instance, there is a high risk of other mental disorders among those with substance use disorders. A biological marker could exist that explains the high risk of depression among those with alcohol use disorders, for instance.
Establishing a biological link between a mental disorder and a physical illness challenges the way that mental disorders are perceived. While the stigma attached to many disorders has decreased through heightened awareness, there remains a difference between how mental disorders and physical ailments are perceived. Evidence of biological links between mental and physical health could change the public perception of mental health conditions.