This article was originally written by Alice Victor, and published by YoungMinds about a new study that suggests depression affects the body as well as the mind.
This study could be a "crucial building block" in understanding the link between physical and mental health
A new study has discovered that depression affects the body as well as the mind. An international team of researchers has found that the illness causes a change in the body’s oxidative stress levels. Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between the production of free radicals in the body and its ability to neutralise these free radicals with antioxidants.
To investigate how depression causes changes in the body, researchers led by a team at the University of Granada in Spain carried out a meta-analysis, combining the findings from 29 previous studies involving 3,961 people.
The evidence, published in the 'Journal of Clinical Psychiatry’, looked at patients suffering with depression before and after treatment.
The results of the study suggested that patients with depression who underwent treatment:
- Had existing imbalances in oxidative stress parameters restored.
- Saw a reduction in antioxidant substances in their blood, to reach normal levels.
The results could explain:
- The significant association between depression and other illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
- Why individuals suffering with depression may have shorter lifespans than non-sufferers
The importance of this study
Antonis Kousoulis, the Mental Health Foundation’s Assistant Director for Development Programmes, said:
“Whilst several studies have established a link between oxidative stress and mental health problems, the causal relationship has not yet been fully determined. This is why meta-analyses, like the paper published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, are important sources of evidence.
"We haven’t fully explained the relationship between depression and physical conditions like cancer, even though we know that up to 1 in 4 people with cancer have clinical depression. Interconnected system imbalances, such as the one that emerges in the results of this research, could go a long way towards explaining some of these associations".
The study's impact
Many people believe that physical and mental health are closely linked. If someone has a chronic physical health condition, their mental health may be negatively affected. In a similar way, mental illness can put an individual’s physical health at risk.
However, mental and physical illnesses are treated differently by society, the media and healthcare systems.
Studies like this one, and their results, may help to narrow the gap between the treatment of physical and mental health conditions.
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