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Anxiety and depression linked to recurrence of inflammatory bowel disease

Posted on 2 June 2016

Researchers from the Department have discovered a link between a recurrence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and anxiety and depression.

The research team analysed a large cohort of patients from an IBD study conducted in Switzerland from 2006 to 2015.

They examined symptoms of depression and anxiety for an association with the clinical recurrence of IBD in patients over time.

A significant association was found between depression and the clinical recurrence of IBD. A significant association was also found between symptoms of anxiety and the recurrence of IBD, the research team concluded.

The paper is published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Senior lecturer, Dr Antonina Mikocka-Walus from the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences, said: “We analysed prospective data for 2006-2015 and observed a highly statistically significant relationship between depression and IBD clinical recurrence over time.  

“The same was true for anxiety but was less statistically significant.

"We recommended introducing screening for anxiety and depression and referral for psychological treatment as part of standard IBD care. This is currently not the case and, in the UK for example, only 12 per cent of IBD clinics have any referral pathways for psychological counselling.

“With this paper we showed that we can no longer ignore mental health in the treatment of chronic gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.

“Those depressed have more severe physical symptoms and more frequent flares. It is possible that if we provided good mental health care we could improve well-being of these patients and reduce healthcare costs.”

“Patients with IBD should be screened for clinically relevant levels of depression and anxiety and referred to psychologists or psychiatrists for further evaluation and treatment.”

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic relapsing condition. Its two main types are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

It affects more than 300,000 people in the UK and 2.2 million people in Europe. IBD causes stigma, fear and isolation and is associated with a significant psychosocial burden.

The rates of depression in IBD patients are three times higher than in the healthy population.

The study involved collaboration with researchers at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Lausanne; Department of Clinical Research, University of Bern; Department of Neurology, Bern University Hospital; and Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, Clinic Barmelweid. It was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Brocher Foundation.