FRIDAY, February 9, 2018 – Acne can be emotionally devastating at any age, and new research suggests that it could even plunge you into deep depression.
"Our research has shown that patients with acne in the first year after an acne diagnosis have a 63 percent increased risk of developing severe depression compared to patients without acne," said study author Isabelle Vallerand.
"We also found that this risk remained significantly increased up to five years after the first acne diagnosis," said Vallerand. She is an epidemiologist at the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary in Canada.
"Living with acne can affect a person's self-esteem," said Vallerand. And people of all ages, not just the classic pimple teens who shy away from socializing, were prone to the agony of acne, she noted.
"Our results suggest that the risk of depression in acne patients does not depend on age," said Vallerand.
Her team analyzed data collected between 1986 and 2012 by The Health Improvement Network, a UK primary care database. The data included more than 134,000 patients with acne and a further 1.7 million patients without acne.
Previous research has already shown that more than a quarter of all acne patients have to deal with some psychological problems, the researchers emphasized.
In the new study, various patient characteristics were examined. After an average of 15 years of patient follow-up, the study found that acne sufferers were 18.5 percent at risk of developing clinical depression, compared to only 12 percent in those without acne.
However, the increased risk was only noticeable in the first five years after an acne diagnosis, and the study did not prove that acne itself increases the risk of depression.
Nevertheless "we were surprised that this risk was very high. This underlines that psychological problems in patients with acne should be taken seriously and that depression treatment in these patients should be started early if necessary". Vallerand said.
A dermatologist said she saw the connection first-hand.
Dr. Whitney Bowe, medical director for integrative dermatology, aesthetics and wellness at Advanced Dermatology in New York, said she sees "the emotional and physical scars of acne … every day" in her practice.
"The devastating effect of this disease on a person's self-confidence and self-esteem and the positive change that can result after effective therapy was actually the reason why I became involved in the field of dermatology," she said.
"Skin problems aren't just skin deep," added Bowe.
"In fact, skin and brain are closely related, and as dermatologists, if we really want to determine the best course of treatment, we have to evaluate the patient in an inclusive and comprehensive manner," she said.
"For years I have chosen a comprehensive approach for my patients and in addition to examining their skin, I have also asked about their stress levels, sleep patterns and coping mechanisms," said Bowe. "And this study only provides more evidence of this approach."
Vallerand and her colleagues reported their findings in a research letter published online on February 7 in the British Journal of Dermatology.
The United States National Institute of Mental Health reports more about the risk of depression.
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Published: February 2018