Researchers from Norway and the United Kingdom found that mortality rates for people suffering from depression are similar to those who smoke.
The joint study, conducted by research teams at the University of Bergen, Norway, and the Institute of Psychology at King's College in London, compared results from a 60,000-person survey with a mortality database. Scientists found that smoking and depression increased the risk of death by a similar margin.
"The physical health of people with current or previous mental disorder needs a lot more attention than it gets at the moment," said Dr. Robert Stewart of King's College, who led the research team. He added that more tests need to be done to determine the causal connection between depression and mortality. This connection is already well documented in the case of smoking, but not mental disorders.
Research also determined that those suffering from depression with anxiety have lower mortality rates than those with depression alone. The reason for this, Stewart posits, is that anxiety sufferers in general are more likely to seek help than people with depression.
He also suggests that when depressed people do seek help, their physical symptoms are often not the focus of the treatment; they are blamed on the depression as a whole. With anxiety, physical symptoms are more likely to be treated in conjunction with mental symptoms because it makes the patient feel better.