Arthritis and digestive issues have recently been discovered to be more prevalent in young people who have experienced depression. The discovery also showed that the chance of contracting skin diseases is heightened by anxiety disorders in youth.
The study, which delves into how physical diseases and mental disorders can occur in tandem during youth, was published by psychologists at the University of Basel and Ruhr-University Bochum.
The study, which appeared in PLOS ONE, used data from a nationally representative sample of 6,483 U.S. teenagers aged 13 to 18. The research team trained interviewers to administer a mental health dialogistic using a computer-assisted version of the World Health Organization’s Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Additional information about the mental health of the participants was gathered through the adolescent’s parents or guardians.
The participants then reported their physical diseases and chronic conditions through self-assessment, using a checklist to list their ailments.
After analyzing the data, the psychologists found that affective disorders, such as depression, are what the study refers to as a “risk factor” for arthritis and diseases of the digestive system. Meanwhile, anxiety disorders were found to be a risk factor for skin diseases later in life.
Disorders involving substance abuse were found to be a protective factor for seasonal allergies. The research team also discovered that epilepsy may indicate the presence of an eating disorder in teens.
These findings support similar studies about adults. In one study, participants reported improvements to their atopic dermatitis—more commonly referred to as eczema—as they progressed through treatments for their anxiety.
Data in another study revealed that the presence of Crohn’s disease could elevate the likelihood of further complications in depression or the presence of ulcers, even if one was previously ulcer-free.
There was a similar finding in people with arthritis, where those who reported improvements in depression reported a correlation in the reduction of their arthritis pain. There has been no study before that has reported the existence of a connection between substance use disorders and allergies and only a small amount of research existing regards the connection between epilepsy and eating disorders.
The psychologists posit in the study’s conclusion that these correlations may be caused by stress. Both underlying digestive and skin conditions can be activated by acute and chronic stress, which is well documented in regard to mental disorders. Arthritis pain, the researchers also found, may be numbed by the way the brain is impacted by depression and how it subsequently processes pain.
Researchers suggest that further studies should explore the correlation between mental and physical disorders and the age of their onset and duration in-depth.