Women who experience symptoms of depression, even without a clinical diagnosis, are at an increased risk of developing multiple chronic diseases Picture: Pexels

Women who experience symptoms of depression, even without a clinical diagnosis, are at an increased risk of developing multiple chronic diseases, according to a study.

The study, published in the journal American Psychological Association Health Psychology, examined 7,407 middle-aged women (45-50 years) for over 20 years.

During the study period, 43.2 per cent women experienced elevated symptoms of depression and just under half the cohort were diagnosed or took treatment for depression. 

Of the total, 2,035 or 63.6 per cent developed multiple chronic diseases.

"These days many people suffer from multiple chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. We looked at how women progress in the development of these chronic diseases before and after the onset of depressive symptoms," said Xiaolin Xu from the University of Queensland in Australia.

"Experiencing depressive symptoms appeared to amplify the risk of chronic illness," Xu said, adding that women suffering from depression were 1.8 times more likely to have multiple chronic health conditions.

"After women started experiencing these symptoms, they were 2.4 times more likely to suffer from multiple chronic conditions compared to women without depressive symptoms," he added.

Women with both conditions -- depression and chronic diseases -- were more likely to come from low-income households, be overweight and inactive, smoke tobacco and drink alcohol.

"Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and reducing harmful behaviours could help prevent and slow the progression of multiple chronic diseases," Xu said.

IANS