How do anxiety and depression affect physical health?

Depression and anxiety may be just as bad for your health as smoking and obesity. However, cancer does not correlate with these mental health conditions. These are the main takeaways of a new study that investigates the physical health risks of these psychiatric conditions.
woman looking straight into the camera
Anxiety and depression may seriously impact a person’s physical health.
In the 17th century, Enlightenment philosopher Rene Descartes posited that the mind and the body were separate entities.

While this dualist idea has shaped much of modern science and thought, recent scientific advances show that the dichotomy between the mind and the body is a false one.

For instance, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio famously wrote the book he entitled “Descartes’ error” to prove precisely the point that our brains, emotions, and judgment are much more intertwined than people previously believed.

The findings of a new study may further contribute to this latter argument. Aoife O’Donovan, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, and her colleague Andrea Niles, Ph.D., set out to examine the effects that psychiatric conditions, such as depression and anxiety, may have on a person’s physical health.

The researchers investigated the health of more than 15,000 seniors over 4 years and published their findings in Health Psychology, the journal of the American Psychological Association.

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