How common is depression among people with other medical conditions?


Depression may occur in people who are diagnosed with other medical conditions. The term comorbidity applies to the simultaneous diagnosis of two or more medical conditions. It implies that the conditions occur together (or co-occur).

Research has shown that depression decreases the function of the body’s immune system. Depressive symptoms are very common among the medically ill, and there is evidence that depression in these people is frequently unrecognized and untreated. Mild-to-moderate depression (dysthymia) is more prevalent in people with sleep disorders, chronic fatigue, hypothyroidism and somatoform disorders (presence of physical symptoms that suggest a general medical condition and that are not fully explained by a general medical condition, the direct effects of a substance, or another mental disorder). Further evidence for this association is provided in Howland’s (1993) review of medical comorbidity in dysthymia. Few of the studies used control groups, which precludes direct comparison of dysthymics with the general population.

Mild-to-moderate depression is found in 45% of people with chronic insomnia, 6% to 39% of people with stroke (wide variation in estimates from different studies), 4% to 18% of people with diabetes, 14% to 20% of people with HIV infection, 3% to 31% of women with premenstrual syndrome, 14% of people with Parkinson’s disease, and up to 28% of people experiencing chronic pain.

Overall, 28% of people with mild-to-moderate depression have incapacitating medical conditions. People with dysthymia also use medical treatment facilities at higher rates than individuals without psychiatric disorders. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.