Health & Wellness Articles

4 Health Problems Linked to Depression

How Depression Can Hurt Your Physical Health


In older people, the link between depression and dementia is significant. A meta-analysis of this correlation, published in 2013 in the British Journal of Psychology, supports this link, with researchers noting that depressed people over age 50 are more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

How does this happen? The exact mechanism hasn’t been defined yet, but one hypothesis is that changes in blood vessels that impact brain matter cause and further both depression and dementia.

Depression is not a part of normal aging, and you can help older friends and family members by keeping a watchful eye for symptoms and asking medical caretakers to take these signals seriously. It’s never too late to seek help.

Sleeping Problems
Insomnia, like other chronic health problems, can increase one's risk of depression because it affects your day-to-day life, energy levels, and ability to focus or enjoy things. Depression can also cause sleeping patterns to change, causing you to sleep excessively or not very much at all—both of which are actually bad for your health. These sleep disruptions may be due to chemical changes in the brain that come along with depression. In addition, the same stress and anxiety that can heighten or even trigger depression can make it difficult to drift off to sleep each night.

Depending on whether you're sleeping too much—or not enough—the solutions for getting more restful sleep will vary. There are a variety of drug-free techniques that can help you improve your sleep, as well as medical interventions that can help.
Depression is devious; it can make nearly any health problem worse because it often saps your energy and motivation to care for yourself. And many chronic illnesses are accompanied by an increased risk of depression as patients adapt to the potential limitations and lifestyle changes a new diagnosis requires.

The faster you can get treatment for depression, the better. Too many people suffer needlessly without ever getting proper diagnosis or treatment. If you’re listless, having trouble sleeping, feeling helpless or hopeless, or simply not up to pursuing your usual interests, ask a physician for help.

American Heart Association, "Anxiety, Depression Identify Heart Disease Patients at Increased Risk of Dying,", accessed on June 27, 2013.

Amos D. Korczyn, Ilan Halperin. "Depression and Dementia," Journal of the Neurological Sciences, Volume 283, Issue 1, Pages 129-142, 15 August 2009.
Alzheimer's Society, "Depression and Anxiety,", accessed on June 27, 2013.
Chapman DP, Perry GS, Strine TW. "The vital link between chronic disease and depressive disorders," Preventing Chronic Disease, 2005 Jan.
Harvard Medical School, "Too early to get up, too late to get back to sleep,", accessed June 27, 2013.
Mayo Clinic, "Insomnia,", accessed on June 27, 2013.
National Institute of Mental Health, "Depression and Chronic Pain,", accessed on June 27, 2013. 
Yelizaveta Sher, Sermsak Lolak, José R. Maldonado. "The Impact of Depression in Heart Disease," Current Psychiatry Reports, (2010) 12:255–264.
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About The Author

Robin Donovan Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and magazine journalist with experience covering health, medicine, science, business, technology and design.

Member Comments

  • I am surprised that WEIGHT GAIN wasn't mentioned. It is just as prevalent as weight loss from depression. If you can't feel anything and are utterly numb , overeating is a way of trying to FEEL something, anything. - 11/10/2014 11:07:41 AM
  • I was wondering if the author did the research on chronic illnesses that affect the brain. I have Multiple Sclerosis and I have seen the placKs* that take up home in my brain. I have many issues that contribute to depression and anxiety. I have issues with pain and reduced function of my body. It contributes to my depression and anxiety. These symptoms help me to struggle with exercise and calorie consumption. I also live on a low income life style that affects my ability to find an active lifestyle that works for me. These are some of the issues I struggle with day to day. Each day is a different day. I know that any of these activities even on a reduced function can be beneficial and for me that is where the depression and anxiety step in. I struggle to convince myself to do things that contribute to an active life. I have a art class and an environmental study that I participate in. I try to do things that make me happy. Thank you for your time to read this. - 6/2/2014 9:00:50 AM

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