Health & Wellness

Depression and Anxiety Can Boost Your Health Risks

The good news is that researchers found no link between mood problems and an elevated cancer risk

By Wendy Haaf

Photo: iStock/Victor_69.

If you’re retired, having depression or anxiety could increase your risk for numerous health problems as much as smoking and obesity.

That finding comes from a study conducted by researchers at the University of California–San Fransciso and published in the journal Health Psychology.

The scientists assessed 15,418 government retirees (average age: 68) twice over the course of four years. Compared with participants who were free of such mood problems, participants with high levels of depression or anxiety (16% of the study population) had far higher incidences of a range of symptoms such as shortness of breath and headaches, and conditions including high blood pressure, arthritis, and stroke. In this group, rates of high blood pressure, arthritis, and stroke were 50%, 87%, and 64% higher, respectively.

The study’s authors stressed in their report that they found no link between high levels of depression and anxiety and an increased incidence of cancer.

“Our findings are in line with a lot of other studies showing that psychological distress is not a strong predictor of many types of cancer,” senior author Aoife O’Donovan said. “It is important that we promote these [negative] findings. We need to stop attributing cancer diagnoses to histories of stress, depression, and anxiety.”