Thursday, 9 April 2015

Lifestyle risk factors and depression: a study in individuals living with multiple sclerosis

SPHPM’s Professor George Jelinek has co-authored a paper with researchers from St Vincent’s Hospital and Notre Dame University, discussing the relationship between various lifestyle risk factors, medication and depression risk in individuals living with multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS is an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. It is a chronic condition which impedes motor and sensory function, impacts eyesight, can affect normal bladder function and limits cognitive capabilities. The condition can also lead to ataxia and can cause great pain.

Depression, a common psychological illness has been identified as a highly prevalent condition in individuals living with multiple sclerosis and affecting their quality of life. People living with multiple sclerosis are more likely to engage in self-harm and are more likely to commit suicide than individuals who do not have the disease. Statistics indicate that the lifetime prevalence of having depression is at 50% amongst people living with multiple sclerosis with a reported annual incidence of 20%.

Depression is however not appropriately recognised or treated for those living with multiple sclerosis. Literature has highlighted the lack of research regarding psychological or pharmacological treatment options for individuals suffering from depression and living with multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, research has elucidated that lifestyle factors have been associated with the development of psychological conditions. Factors such as diet, sleeping patterns and exercise are modifiable however; these are not recognised or addressed in the treatment of depression. The integration of depression treatment alongside multiple sclerosis treatment is necessary as individuals with multiple sclerosis and suffering from depression will generally require use of both inpatient and outpatient services and will have longer rehabilitation periods.

Further research of these factors can be incorporated into treatment regimens and utilised as recommendations for health and psychological professionals. The researchers suggest that there is scope to treat and manage depression through adjustment of lifestyle factors; however there is a paucity of research exploring this. A previous study conducted by the researchers assessed the relationship between lifestyle risk factors which could be modified and disease outcomes (the HOLISM study). This paper builds on the HOLISM study, exploring depression and its relationship with lifestyle factors which are modifiable. It also seeks to examine medication use.

The researchers recruited 2459 participants via Web 2.0 platforms. All participants answered a survey which questioned their various lifestyle and health behaviours, depression, quality of life and numerous other factors. A cross-sectional analysis was conducted from this data. The results highlight that 19.4% of the sample were positive for depression. Through a bivariate analysis, it was evident that many lifestyle factors were linked with depression risk. These included smoking, lack of exercise and inadequate diet. Those who took omega3 supplements, a healthy diet and drank alcohol in moderation had a lesser risk of developing depression. The researchers conclude that the study indicates that there is a clear association between depression risk and modifiable demographic and lifestyle factors. They also suggest that health professionals and those living with multiple sclerosis can understand these factors are modifiable and depression can be managed by adopting changes into their existing treatment plans.

Read the paper here

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