Depression can be as deadly as smoking

Depression can increase mortality rates as much as smoking, as well as put people at greater risk of obesity in older age, two academic studies have suggested.

A study of more than 61,000 people by researchers from Norway and King’s College London published in the British Journal of Psychiatry concluded that depression is associated not only with increased mortality, but can be as great a risk factor for mortality as smoking.

Yet the researchers found no association between anxiety and mortality and, somewhat counter-intuitively, found mortality rates were actually lowered among patients who had both anxiety and depression.

One possible reason could be that those experiencing anxiety might be more likely to seek help when they feel unwell, and more likely to follow any treatment given to them.

A separate piece of research, meanwhile, has argued that having a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression can put people at greater risk of obesity in old age.

The University College London study of more than 10,000 civil servants aged between 35 and 55, also published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found a 6% obesity rate at age 40, with no difference in levels of obesity between those who had mental health disorders and those who did not. But at age 70, there was a clear gap. At this age, 35% of people who had common mental health disorders were obese, compared with 27% of people who did not.

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