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Depressed children face a higher risk of chronic illnesses when they grow up

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Depressed children face a higher risk of chronic illnesses when they grow up

People who suffer depression when they are children or teenagers have a much higher risk of suffering a wide range of chronic illnesses when they are adults.

Although substance abuse can partly explain the connection, other undefined factors are also at play, say researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

In all, depression in the early years raises the chances of developing up to 66 chronic health problems and increases the risk of a premature death.

The researchers tracked the health of around 1.5 million Swedish boys and girls, 37,000 of whom were diagnosed with depression between the ages of 5 and 19 years. The depressed children were much more likely to suffer from a range of chronic health problems, including sleep disorders, type 2 diabetes, viral hepatitis, and kidney and liver diseases. They were also six times more likely to die prematurely.

Women who had suffered depression were more likely to suffer from urinary, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, while the men were at a higher risk of obesity, thyroid gland problems, celiac disease and eczema.

The researchers say they can’t be sure whether depression was a cause of chronic health problems, or whether there was some undefined underlying issue that was responsible for both.

Either way, children who were depressed need to be monitored throughout their lives because of the greater health risks they faced.

(Source: JAMA Psychiatry, 2020; doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.3786)

Article Topics: medicine, suffering, thyroid
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