Your Mental Health Needs More Attention
The effects of stress on physical health are no secret. How many sleepless nights can you attribute to worry and fear about the future?
Chronic stress takes a toll on both the mind and body. Stress can make it harder to recover from illness as it suppresses the immune system. In addition, emotional stress can trigger heart attacks and arrhythmias especially for people with a history of heart disease – the number one cause for death globally.
A recent study from UC San Francisco finds anxiety and depression to be leading predictors for conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and various other somatic symptoms.
The researchers, Aoife O’Donovan and Andrea Niles analyzed data from more than 15,000 older adults over a four-year period. They compared the effects of anxiety and depression to obesity and smoking. Depression and anxiety symptoms were analyzed using data from participant interviews.
The findings revealed that anxiety and depression influence physical conditions like arthritis, headache and heart disease but not cancer. The odds for getting heart disease (65%), stroke (64%), high blood pressure (50%), and arthritis (87%) for people with anxiety and depression were similar to people who smoked or had obesity.
O’Donovan suggests that null findings should be reported in the case for cancer and that “we need to stop attributing cancer diagnoses to histories of stress, depression and anxiety.”
According to the researchers, anxiety and depression increase the risk of arthritis even more than smoking and obesity. They also found that headache, stomach upset, back pain and shortness of breath increased along with stress and depression.
Get to know your stressors
An important part of managing stress is learning about it. Everybody is unique in the way they define and respond to stressors. That is why it is worth spending some time getting to know your triggers as well as your reactions to those triggers. Then, you can figure out ways to alleviate the stress that speak to your individual needs.
Here are some tips to reduce stress:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat in a way that nourishes both your body and mind
- Socialize, go out with friends
- Journal it out, write about your stress
- Take a walk
- Seek professional help
- 1. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2018/12/412676/depression-anxiety-may-take-same-toll-health-smoking-and-obesity
- 2. Niles, A. N., & O'Donovan, A. (2018). Comparing anxiety and depression to obesity and smoking as predictors of major medical illnesses and somatic symptoms. Health Psychology. Advance online publication.
- 3. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/hea0000707
- 4. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx