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Just to be clear let’s understand that depression and feeling depressed are not the same thing. And by asking their relationship, we do not mean to ask when you get sick whether you get depressed or not. In daily life we tell people around us that we feel depressed, which actually means that we are feeling sadness and tiredness at the moment which is not a clinical case. Depressive symptoms are most common in primary care and to diagnose whether you have depression you will need to visit your psychiatrist, just like you visit your primary care doctor when you suspect you might have the flu. 

To stress the difference between having the blues and major depression, here are some symptoms of major depression from DSM IV:

  • Depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities (anhedonia)
  • Duration of at least 2 weeks
  • The symptoms causing clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other functioning
  • Symptoms are not caused by psychotropic drugs or general medical condition and do not occur within 2 months of grief

There are also physical complaints when a patient is in a major depressive episode:

  • Fatigue (most common reason of patients visiting doctor)
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Chronic pain
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite, etc.

70% of depressed patients do not get treated for their disease, when one third of adults in the USA will be affected by depression during their life, which shows the risk of suicide among especially those untreated. It is one of the leading causes of disability and major depression patients lose more days at work, spend more time in bed, and have more bodily pain than do patients with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, or arthritis (1).

How about the flu?

Among the factors that we have listed previously which are associated with major depression are infectious diseases including influenza, hepatitis C, varicella-zoster, and herpes viruses (2). By risk it is mentioned in research articles that when a person has had one of those infections, the chances of him/her/them having a major depressive episode is more likely than those who did not have been infected.

Particularly for influenza virus, there has been a study in 2016 with 103 307 participants by Bornand, Toovey and Meier (3) which concluded that their study provides evidence that recent influenza infections are associated with a moderately increased risk of developing depression. Albeit their findings they have also mentioned that sleeping disorders may play an important role in this association.

The evidence for the relationship between depression and flu is path-breaking by means of public health interest. Both depression and flu have an economic and social burden on all of us and Yesil Science has digital solutions for both of them. To track your wellbeing and have your personal suggestions from Mindpio, keep in touch with them on their Instagram account with @mindpio. If you would like to have a digital flu assistant you know where to go, FluAI App is working for you in stores.

References:

  1. Rakel, R. E. (1999). Depression. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, 26(2), 211–224. doi:10.1016/s0095-4543(08)70003-4  
  2. Lindgren, M., Holm, M., Markkula, N., Härkänen, T., Dickerson, F., Yolken, R. H., & Suvisaari, J. (2020). Exposure to common infections and risk of suicide and self-harm: a longitudinal general population study. European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience, 270(7), 829–839. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-020-01120-3 
  3. Bornand, D., Toovey, S., Jick, S. S., & Meier, C. R. (2016). The risk of new onset depression in association with influenza – A population-based observational study. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 53, 131–137. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2015.12.005

Author

Elif Başak Alço

PM & CLINICAL TEAM

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