Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Anxiety and depression could lead to conditions like arthritis, heart disease and high blood pressure, a study says.
The research, published Monday in the journal Health Psychology, found that, among people in the study with anxiety, 87 percent had increased risk for arthritis, 65 percent for a heart condition, 64 percent for stroke and 50 percent for high blood pressure.
"These increased odds are similar to those of participants who are smokers or are obese," Aoife O'Donovan, a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco, said in a news release. "However, for arthritis, high anxiety and depression seem to confer higher risks than smoking and obesity."
The researchers analyzed data on more than 15,000 retirees with an average age of 68. About 16 percent of the participants were diagnosed with high levels of anxiety or depression, 31 percent were considered obese and 14 percent were smokers.
Participants with high anxiety were also more likely to have upset stomach, back pain and shortness of breath, as well as a 161 percent increased risk of a headache.
The National Institutes of Health says that that 19 percent of adults had an anxiety disorder in the past year, and an estimated 31 percent will have one at some point in their lives.
NIH data also shows that about 16.2 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2016.
"Anxiety and depression symptoms are strongly linked to poor physical health, yet these conditions continue to receive limited attention in primary care settings, compared to smoking and obesity," said Andrea Niles, a researcher at UCSF Department of Psychiatry and study first author. "To our knowledge this is the first study that directly compared anxiety and depression to obesity and smoking as prospective risk factors for disease onset in long-term studies."
The financial burdens associated with depression and anxiety disorders is costly. In a World Health Organization study of 36 countries, researchers found that the total value of health costs associated with mental disorders between 2016 and 2030 will be $147 billion.
But the cost of intervention to help curb the problem might be relatively cheap. One study estimates that treating depression and anxiety disorders could cost high-income nations only $50 a person annually.
"They serve as a reminder that treating mental health conditions can save money for health systems,"