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Study Finds Additional Evidence for Inflammation Tied to Depression
The treatment for mental health issues has increasingly become a collaborative effort between mental health experts and physicians. In addition to more clear examples of mental health issues that affect the physical well-being of a person, such as in the case of eating disorders, it is becoming clear that good mental health is closely linked with good physical health.
In a recent study, researchers from Denmark found evidence that adds to the growing understanding of depression as a mental health issue that may have important influence over physical health.
The study is the newest in a line of research that shows a connection between depression and indicators of low-grade inflammation in the patient. Inflammation is typically a protective function of the body, but the inflammation now associated with depression is of a chronic nature.
The study found that in those with an elevated risk of psychological hardship and depression, there is an increased measure of C-reactive protein (CRP). The protein is used as a marker of inflammatory disease. When the protein reaches levels of more than 10mg/L, the patient is at risk for inflammatory disease.
The study was led by Marie Kim Wium-Andersen, M.D., of Herley Hospital and Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark. The researchers sought to determine whether increased levels of the CRP in blood was connected with the presence of distress or depression in the patient.
The researchers used population studies to examine the connection between CRP levels and depression in a large sample. The data was taken from a sample of 73,131 individuals all between the years of 20 to 100.
The analysis showed that there was an elevated level of CRP in those at an increased possibility of developing distress or depression when surveying data from the overall population. The finding was true after controlling for other variables.
Among participants who reported taking an antidepressant, the odds of having an increased level of CRP in the blood rose significantly. This was also true of those who used prescription antidepressants.
The study’s findings also showed that when there was an increased level of CRP, there was also a higher risk for being hospitalized for depression.
The findings add information to a body of research supporting the understanding of depression as a mental health issue closely connected to the presence of systemic inflammation. While the authors note that additional research is necessary to understand the relationship between CRP and depression, they also encourage physicians to consider the use of anti-inflammatory drugs to aid in the treatment of depression.
The use of anti-inflammatory drugs as a way to augment the present treatment strategies for depression may result in fewer hospital stays, and in turn, reduce the public health cost of depression.