This Is How Mental Health Influences The Risk Of Tuberculosis
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People who suffer from a mental illness, such as depression and schizophrenia, experience a higher incidence of tuberculosis (TB), according to new research that has been presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID, for its acronym in English).
Both tuberculosis and mental illness are urgent health priorities with a high prevalence worldwide, and they often coexist. Until now, it was already known that poor mental health can affect the immune system, but it was unknown whether mental illnesses play a causal role in tuberculosis infection and in the risk of an individual developing active disease.
Now, with this study, which has been carried out by Sally Hayward and her colleagues at the Institute of Infection and Immunity at the University of London (UK), experts examined the evidence for an association between mental health and the risk of developing tuberculosis to better inform clinical and public health measures to address the disease. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Nottingham, and Columbia University in New York also collaborated in the research.
To conduct the trials, the authors conducted a systematic review of research studies from the medical databases MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and PsycEXTRA. The dates they took into account were from a period between January 1, 1970, and May 11, 2020, and they also considered that the study contained data on the association between mental health and the risk of active tuberculosis.
In this way, the researchers examined a total of 1,546 studies, resulting in data taken from 607,184 individuals from Asia, South America, and Africa over a period of 50 years. In all of them, mood disorders, depression, and psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, were analyzed.
During the research, the team found strong evidence in studies conducted in Asia. According to the data, both depression and schizophrenia are associated with an increased risk of developing active tuberculosis. Specifically, it was found that people with depression were between 15% and 2.6 times more likely to suffer from tuberculosis than those who did not suffer from depression, while schizophrenia was associated with risk between 52% and three times greater risk of developing TB.
People with TB are at higher risk of depression
Later, they analyzed data from a large study of 242,952 subjects in low- and middle – income and saw the people with TB were also three times more likely to suffer an episode of depression than people without the disease.
Thus, with these two trials, the researchers concluded that “individuals with mental illnesses, including depression and schizophrenia, experience a higher incidence of tuberculosis and, therefore, represent a high-risk population that could be subject to detention and treatment ”.
Experts say the study shows that “integrated programs that provide care for mental health and tuberculosis are needed, and interventions that address mental illness and its underlying causes can help reduce the incidence of tuberculosis worldwide.”.
Ultimately, Sally Hayward, lead author of the study explains that “it is clear that mental health conditions and tuberculosis often coexist, but this study shows that mental health could play a causal role in the increased risk of tuberculosis, potentially through its effect on the immune system ”. For this reason, the expert says that it is important to work on it “to address the global burden of mental illness, and to focus on physical and mental health in a holistic way.”