Researchers in Canada have said that they have found evidence of a link between depressive symptoms and an increased risk of heart disease and early death.
The study results, published this month in ‘JAMA Psychiatry,’ lend credibility to existing World Health Organisation (WHO) policies to integrate treatment and prevention of mental disorders into primary care.
Depression is a common illness worldwide with more than 264 million people affected. Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life, especially when long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition.
It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, according to the WHO. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29 year olds.
The study, co-led by Simon Fraser University health sciences professor, Scott Lear, concluded that a greater awareness of the physical health risks associated with depression was needed.
The researchers suggested that a comprehensive approach to tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and mental disorders, to achieve health-related United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), needed to be a global priority.
The ‘Medical Xpress’ reported that the study tracked 145,862 middle-aged participants from 21 countries and found a 20 per cent increase in cardiovascular events and death in people with four or more depressive symptoms.
“The risks were twice as high in urban areas, where the majority of the global population will be living by 2050, and more than double in men,” the report stated.
Lear said the results were timely as experts anticipated an increase in the number of people dealing with mental health issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The data suggested that depressive symptoms should be considered as important as traditional risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol when preventing heart disease and early death.