The Connection Between Chronic Illness and Depression

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • Something of a vicious circle exists between long-term diseases and depression. Any long-term medical condition brings with it the sad promise of depression and this affects an already diminished quality of life ever further. Several medical conditions are particularly associated with depression. Cardiac disease, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity represent a few of the better known. Let's consider each of these . . .

    One of the better known examples of vicious circles in this respect is cardiac disease. Not only is depression a risk factor for cardiac disease it is also a consequence. The role of depression in furthering the likelihood of death following a heart attack isn't fully understood, but depression appears to affect immune function and a number of processes associated with normal heart and vascular function. Unfortunately a further dimension in this regard is behavioral in nature because depression is associated with a number of risk factors such as smoking, insufficient exercise, obesity and failure to adhere to treatment recommendations.

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    Diabetes type 2 is becoming more commonplace and this, in part, is attributed to inactivity and poor diet. What is perhaps less known is that depression is also a risk factor.

    Various neurological and neurodegenerative diseases such as epilepsy, MS, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease have what is called a bi-directional association with depression. In other words depression may contribute to their onset as well as the conditions contributing to depression, and the same may apply to obesity.

    Overall it seems clear that an interplay exists between the biological processes of a disease and the psychological processes that inform or result from it. I've really only touched on a few medical conditions but if we extend the parameters to include cancers, head injuries, and glandular conditions the extent of the problem starts to become even more apparent.


    The fact that certain medical diseases and depression are associated doesn’t mean depression can be overlooked as some sad side effect of the condition. The symptoms of depression must always be treated seriously and regarded as an issue in its own right, whether or not the major cause is perceived to be a medical condition. It’s true that alleviating the symptoms of a medical condition can alleviate depression, but proper treatment of depression can also improve quality of life as well as the physical wellbeing of the person affected.

Published On: January 15, 2014