Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Healthy Mind, Healthy Lung

By Stephen Luntz

Depression and chronic lung disease are linked, according to a review of research in the area.

“Some studies have shown depression is associated with a poorer prognosis in lung disease, while others have not so we undertook a review of the published data,” says Dr Evan Atlantis of the University of Western Sydney’s Family and Community Health Research Group.

Rates of clinical depression were four times as high in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than the general public, and those with both had an 83% increase in early death.

Atlantis also studied whether COPD could trigger depression or vice versa. He found complex associations exist, for example through tobacco addiction and reduced physical activity. However, in the journal Chest he reveals that the causality works in both directions, with depression and anxiety a strong predictor of lung disease while those with COPD were 55–69% more likely to develop depression.

“Screening for these disease combinations would identify patients with both COPD and depression/anxiety, and provide clinicians the opportunity to treat both problems at the same time – potentially delivering a better overall health outcome,” says Atlantis.