Monday, 20 August 2012

Depression in young people can lead to early death

While we have know for many years about the varied negative impacts that clinical Depression can have on the lives of young people (including its negative long term impacts on personal, social and economic outcomes and increased risk for suicide), some new research is showing that it may also shorten life – specifically by increasing the risk of dying earlier from physical illnesses.  In a recent study published in the Annals of Epidemiology (July 26, 2012) both males and females who had experienced an episode of Depression in their youth had much higher rates of early death from physical causes than those who had not.  Death due to heart disease was mostly to blame!

Unfortunately, I could not determine from the study if this included young people who had been successfully treated for their illness or not.  This of course is an important issue, as early and successful treatment of Depression may change the long-term outcomes for those who have experienced it.  It will be good to know if this also applies to early death from heart disease.

In any case, this information is very important to have.  For too long we have thought that the brain and the body are separate.  They are clearly are not!  The brain has a substantial and ongoing impact on all aspects of body function and vice versa.  The old Latin saying “mens sana in corpore sano” holds. Meaning "healthy mind in a healthy body" (or something like that - its been over 45 years since I took Latin in high school and was not so good at it then). Check it out the full meaning here.

So, let’s do whatever we can to help our brains get healthy and stay healthy.  That means eating properly, exercising vigorously and getting enough sleep.  It means moderate and parsimonious use of alcohol and avoiding substances that can cause brain damage.  It means taking the appropriate precautions to help decrease the risk of head injury.

If we do all that, can we be sure that Depression will not darken our doorstep?  Unfortunately not, but if Depression happens we need to make sure we recognize it early and get the best evidence supported help that we can, as soon as we can.  Overall, not dying early from having a heart attack is a good thing, don’t you think?


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