New research recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed that depression increases the risk of early death by up to three times.
The study found that for men the risk of premature death increases three-fold whilst women’s risk is heightened by up to 51 percent.
It has been well documented in the past that depression causes the release of stress hormones that suppress the immune system which ultimately increases the risk of conditions such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis and even certain cancers. Studies have also shown that what will often go hand in hand with depression is unhealthy lifestyle habits such as excessive alcohol intake, smoking poor diet and general lethargy resulting in poor fitness levels.
The risk is greatest in the immediate years following a depressive episode.
Although depression is more prevalent in women, past findings have suggested that men suffer from the effects more as they are less likely to seek professional help.
Lead author Stephen Gilman from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Maryland, said: ‘For some individuals depression can be very serious condition. It is very important to seek treatment for depression and to be vigilant about recurrences.’
The research was carried out by analyzing 3,410 adults between 1952 and 1967, 1968 and 1990, and 1991 and 2011. The study’s participants’ had an average age of 50 when the trial started.
So how do you know whether you are suffering with depression or simply suffering from a mild case of the ‘blues’.
There are many signs of depression and you may not be suffering with them all. How intense they are, and how long they last, are different from person to person. However, feeling sad, empty or anxious over a sustained period of time without it going away is a warning sign, as are feeling helpless, worthless, guilty or irritable.
You may feel less energetic with daily routines and tasks becoming too hard to manage or may have less interest in activities that you previously enjoyed.
Trouble concentrating like simply reading a newspaper or watching TV may be hard whilst remembering details and making decisions start to become overwhelming.
You may start to wake up too early or have trouble falling asleep. The opposite can also happen, you may sleep much longer than usual.
Experts believe depression is due to a combination of things, one being your actual brain structure, another is genes but this doesn’t mean that just because it runs in the family that you will develop it likewise if non of your family have suffered with it they you can still be at risk.
Life events are a big factor in triggering depression. It may be the loss of someone close to you, a difficult relationship, stressful situations like finances or where you live. On the other hand, there simply does not have to be a reason for your depression it just happens with no obvious cause.
People who have disturbing experiences in childhood are more likely to have depression. It may be from brain changes caused by trauma at a young age. Other conditions such as drug or alcohol abuse, illness, long-term pain, anxiety, sleep problems, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may also be linked to depression.
If you believe you are getting depressed seek professional advise immediately don’t try and resolve it yourself by doing nothing and seeing if you can ‘toughen’ it out. Make an appointment to see your doctor as there are many treatments that can help. You should definitely get the support and backing from your family, friends and support groups to help you through.