Cystic Fibrosis Doesn’t Necessarily Raise Risk of Anxiety and Depression, Study Shows

Daniela Semedo, PhD avatar

by Daniela Semedo, PhD |

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anxiety and depression in CF

Contrary to previous research, in a recent study published in the journal BMC Pulmonary Medicine, scientists did not find any general elevated risk for anxiety and depression among patients with Cystic Fibrosis.

In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs, impeding their function. Chronic respiratory patients, like those with lung complications caused by CF, are generally at increased risk for anxiety and depression. However, studies exploring the prevalence and levels of anxiety and depression in adult CF patients are few, show inconsistent findings, and rarely include comparisons with general populations. According to two reviews, however, anxiety and depression appear to be more common in CF patients than in those without the disease.

Now a study entitled “Anxiety and depression in adults with cystic fibrosis: a comparison between patients and the general population in Sweden and three other European countries,” by the Swedish arm of The International Depression/Anxiety Epidemiological Study (TIDES), examined the prevalence and degree of anxiety and depression in CF adult patients in Sweden, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Germany, and compared the data to that from the corresponding general population.

In the study, conducted by Lena Backström-Eriksson from the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Division of Psychology, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and colleagues, 129 adult non-transplanted CF patients from the three largest CF centers (out of four) in Sweden (18–70 years old, 50% women), were assessed for anxiety and depression using the Swedish validated version of Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), a well-established and well-validated screening tool with accurate psychometric properties developed for use in somatic populations. Studies using HADS in adult CF populations in the three other countries (U.K., Germany, Belgium) were included, as well as HADS normative data from corresponding general populations.

Results revealed that among CF patients, there was no elevated risk for anxiety and depression. However, a Country x Group interaction effect emerged, with the results showing that patients with CF experienced a higher anxiety when compared to the general population in Sweden, but not in the other countries. This result was limited to women in Sweden.

A Country x Group interaction effect was also found for depression, with the results showing that patients with CF experienced a lower degree of depression when compared with the general population in Sweden, the U.K., and Germany, but not in Belgium/Netherlands.

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The researchers concluded, “The present results do not indicate any elevated risks for anxiety and depression within the studied CF populations, and depression mean scores among CF patients were lower than or similar to those of the general population.”

But more research is needed, they said, “using measurements that are more sensitive to depression symptoms” in part because   “the degree of anxiety was higher among the Swedish CF patients compared to the general population, although this difference was not seen in the UK, Germany and Belgium. Explaining the low prevalence of anxiety and depression found in the present countries requires further research. Such research may help in developing treatment programs for CF populations in which high prevalence of anxiety and depression is a serious problem.”