Depression may raise risk of rapid decline in kidney health

WASHINGTON — The lines separating mental and physical health continue to blur. Researchers with the American Society of Nephrology report frequent depressive symptoms appear to have a connection to a rapid decline in kidney function. Researchers say individuals with healthy kidneys who reported dealing with the signs of depression were also more likely to experience a rapid decline in their kidney health over the next four years.

Depression, and mental health in general, has become a much more common field of study than in previous decades. In recent years, it’s far less of a taboo to discuss mental health out in the open, making it apparent that depression is a troublingly common condition in modern society. Regarding kidney issues specifically, this isn’t the first time a connection to depression has been noted. Prior research had found an association between depression and rapid kidney function decline in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). This latest round of research intended to establish a similar link among adults with normal kidney functioning.

To do so, study authors analyzed data on 4,763 individuals with healthy kidneys, enrolled in the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS).

Kidney issues can be a potentially fatal problem

“CKD is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, and mortality worldwide. Therefore, the identification of more modifiable risk factors may possibly reduce the huge burden of CKD and its related complications by leading to early detection and prevention,” says research leader Xianhui Qin, MD from Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, in a media release.

At the beginning of the observation period, 39 percent of the subjects had “high depressive symptoms.” Among all participants, 160 (6%) experienced rapid kidney function decline over the course of an average four-year follow-up period. Researchers stress that there was a “significant association” between feeling depressed at the start of the study and subsequent declines in kidney function later on. They conclude participants showing frequent depressive symptoms were 1.4 times more likely to deal with rapid kidney function decline than others who only felt depressed occasionally.

“While our study does not show causality, it demonstrated that high depressive symptoms were significantly associated with rapid decline in kidney function among Chinese adults with normal kidney function. If further confirmed, our data provide some evidence for depressive symptom screening and effective psychosocial interventions to improve the prevention of CKD,” Dr. Qin concludes.

The study appears in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.