The link between depression chronic illness and a shorter life

People who deal with depression feel like they’re living in a black hole, unable to crawl out.

Their lives are full of negative feelings like apathy, fatigue, helplessness and worthlessness.

Hopefully, you haven’t experienced depression, and won’t…

Because with severe depression comes the likelihood of a shorter life. And, for women, that chance of early death associated with depression has been on the rise…

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Depression linked to early death

An international team of researchers looked at 60 years (1952-1967, 1968-1990 and 1991-2011) of mental health data of over 3,000 adults, and linked the data to deaths in the Canadian Mortality Database.

What they found was a strong link between depression and increased risk of death — which, for the men, was observed throughout the entire timespan the researchers examined.

But, oddly, the risk appeared to only emerge for women beginning in the 1990s…

According to the researchers, “The lifespan for young adults with depression at age 25 was markedly shorter over the 60-year period, ranging from 10 to 12 fewer years of life in the first group, 4 to 7 years in the second group and 7 to 18 fewer years of life in the 1992 group.”

Mortality risk over longer periods of time may be more likely to result from chronic conditions associated with depression. The researchers noted that depression is associated with poor quality of diet, infrequent exercise, smoking and excessive alcohol use and that depression may be associated with changes to the cardiovascular system

But, “Most disturbing is the 50 percent increase in the risk of death for women with depression between 1992 and 2011.”

The researchers say this could be due to societal changes…

“During the last 20 years of the study in which women’s risk of death increased significantly, roles have changed dramatically both at home and in the workplace, and many women shoulder multiple responsibilities and expectations,” says Dr. Colman.

Recognizing depression

It’s not uncommon to feel blue occasionally. But if you find the happy times are few and far between, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a depressive episode may include these symptoms:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, and feeling “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed.

So, if you think you may be living with depression — or know someone who is — it’s vital to take steps now to overcome it, to increase both the quality and the length of your life.

5 ways to push back at depression

#1 – Reach out to other people

Isolation fuels depression, so reach out to friends and loved ones, even if you feel like being alone or don’t want to be a burden to others. The simple act of talking to someone face-to-face about how you feel can be an enormous help.

#2 – Get moving

When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem daunting, let alone exercising. But regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication in countering the symptoms of depression. Start with small activities and build up from there.

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#3 – Eat a mood-boosting diet

Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your moods, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans-fats, sugar and refined carbs. And, increase mood-enhancing nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids from fish like wild salmon. The nutrients in omega-3s, DHA and EPA were found to lower depression by up to 70 percent. But that study found supplementing was necessary to get enough of this happiness-promoting factor.

#4 – Find ways to engage again with the world

Spend some time in nature, care for a pet, volunteer or pick up a hobby you used to enjoy (or take up a new one). You won’t feel like it at first, but as you participate in the world again, you’ll start to feel better.

#5 – Supplement

There are a number of supplements that can help with depression, these include:

  • St. John’s Wort – A 2008 review of 29 studies on St. John’s wort found that the plant was just as effective for treating mild to moderate depression as antidepressants, yet resulted in fewer side effects.

However, since St. John’s wort is known for interacting with lots of medications, especially blood thinners, birth control pills and chemotherapy medications, always check with your doctor before taking this herb.

  • SAM-e – SAM-e is short for S-adenosylmethionine. This supplement is designed to act like a synthetic form of the body’s natural mood-boosting chemicals and studies show it can ease depression.
  • Folate – Low levels of folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) have been linked to depression. Taking 500 micrograms of folic acid has been linked with improving the effectiveness of other antidepressant medications. Here are 5 reasons you need more folate after 50.

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Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.