09 September 2019

Breakthrough research establishes definite link between depression and multiple diseases

New research has identified major depressive disorder as the cause of at least 20 diseases – which will lead to better ways to detect and manage disease in those with depression.

Recent research from the Australian Centre for Precision Health at the University of South Australia made a breakthrough in the link between depression and physical disease.

Major depressive disorder was established as the genetic cause for at least 20 distinct diseases, which provides vital information to help medical professionals detect and manage high rates of physical illness in people diagnosed with depression, according to the news release.

The research, first published in in Molecular Psychiatry, used what is called the MR-PheWAS analysis to screen for a causal link between depression and a range of diseases. The study was led by Professor Elina Hypponen, who believes that this research will have important implications for those who suffer from depression, those who treat depression and policymakers alike.

What did the study entail?

The study assessed risk factors between depression and 925 diseases and found a causal relationship between depression and a wide array of diseases, including asthma, coronary heart disease, high cholesterol, oesophagitis, gastroenteritis, E. coli infections and urinary system disorders.

The link between depression and illnesses resulting from depression has been investigated for a long time. This new study is, however, a breakthrough and may help improve the lives of millions suffering with depression. According to UniSA researcher, Anwar Mulugeta, understanding the link between depression and these illnesses that may stem from depression will help to treat them and help many people in the process.

The implication of the research

"Data shows that people living with serious mental diseases, like depression, have much higher rates of physical illness than those in the general population," Mulugeta said in a news report.

"But until now, these studies have been complicated by the possibility of other confounding factors, or even reverse causation where the physical condition is assumed to cause depression.”

"This research puts the 'chicken and egg' conundrum to rest, showing that depression causes disease, rather than only the other way around.”

Because there are multiple inflammatory conditions linked to depression, health practitioners will now understand the need for a focus on diet and healthy lifestyle to help manage depression.

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