Multiple studies have found that people with depression and anxiety are at increased risk for developing medical illnesses. For example, a recent study found that depression and anxiety could be just as bad for your health as smoking and obesity.
For the study, which was published in Health Psychology in 2019, more than 15,000 adults (average age 68), answered questions about their health. Of these, 2,225 (16 percent) had high levels of depression and anxiety, 2,125 (14 percent) were smokers, and 4,737 (31 percent) were obese.
When researchers compared the groups four years later, the adults with high levels of depression and anxiety were at increased risk for developing a heart condition, stroke, arthritis, high blood pressure, or diabetes, but not cancer. They were also more likely than those without depression and anxiety to have developed symptoms such as stomach problems, shortness of breath, dizziness, and pain. The negative effects of depression and anxiety on health were at least as strong as those for obesity and smoking. The one exception was diabetes, for which obesity remained the biggest risk.
Symptoms of depression and anxiety need to be taken seriously. Not only do they cause suffering on their own, they can contribute to medical illnesses and other symptoms. Follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to your mental health—you just might avoid a heart attack or stroke.