The Relationship Between Mental & Physical Health
People with depression often have worse physical health, as well as worse self-perceived health, than those without depression.
Depression and other physical health conditions have separate but additive effects on well-being. For example, the combination of heart disease and depression can cause twice the reduction in social interaction than either condition alone.
Patients with both depression and physical health problems are at particular risk: The physical problem can complicate the assessment and treatment of depression by masking or mimicking its symptoms.
It can work the other way as well. People with any chronic physical disease tend to feel more psychological distress than do healthy people. Poor physical health brings an increased risk of depression, as do the social and relationship problems that are very common among chronically ill patients.
Heart Disease & Depression Go Hand in Hand
A 2009 study of patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease found that 22 percent of the participants had at least mild depression, defined as a score of 14 or more on the widely-used Beck Depression Inventory. Seventeen percent were taking antidepressants. The researchers say that for these patients, “depression is an independent determinant of health-related quality of life.”
Professor David Goldberg of the Institute of Psychiatry, London, reports that the rate of depression in patients with a chronic disease is almost three times higher than normal. “Depression and chronic physical illness are in reciprocal relationship with one another: not only do many chronic illnesses cause higher rates of depression, but depression has been shown to antedate some chronic physical illnesses.”
He states that depression which occurs together with physical illness is less well diagnosed than depression occurring on its own. “Depression among those with chronic physical illnesses is likely to be missed by professionals who care for physically sick patients,” he writes in the journal World Psychiatry.
“This is because health professionals are understandably concerned with the physical disorder which is usually the reason for the consultation, and may not be aware of the accompanying depression.”