JAMA Network recently conducted a study in late June of 2018 which concluded that people with stress-related psychiatric conditions are at higher risk for autoimmune disease. This study pulls from a Swedish database documenting 106,464 patients who had a severe psychiatric stress condition, for instance, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress reaction, or adjustment disorder. This group was compared with a control group of 1,064,640 people who did not have a stress-related disorder, and with 126,652 who were a sibling of a participant with a stress-disorder and did not have one.
This study spanned throughout a ten year follow up period, during which “8,284 cases of autoimmune disease among those diagnosed with a stress disorder, 57,711 among those without one, and 8,151 among the unstressed siblings.” Its goal was to determine whether living with a long-term stress related disorder and contracting autoimmune disease was linked. It concluded that indeed they were, and those with a stress related disorder were statistically more likely to contract autoimmune disease.
Those running the study also made sure that all other risk factors were controlled and charted. Conclusively, the numbers read that those with any form of a stress-related disorder were 36 percent more likely to have an autoimmune disease than someone without a stress-related disorder. They found, as well, that compared to their sibling, the sibling with a stress-related disorder was 29 percent more likely than the sibling without to develop autoimmune disease. Additionally, people who were diagnosed with PTSD were at an even higher risk, demonstrating that they were 46 percent more likely over this ten-year span to develop autoimmune disease than those in the control group.
So what are some possible conclusions for this tremendously high outcome and how can we work to minimize it? For one, it is not a new idea in the medical, psychiatry, and psychology community that stress can have an adverse effect on the long-term health of a person, in addition to detracting immediately from their short-term health. The larger takeaway from this study, or at least one of the most important ones, is that it is vital for those with stress-related disorders to seek treatment and take care of themselves, their minds, and their bodies to the best of their ability. On the other end, it is also necessary for the medical system to continually work to provide the best treatment possible for those with stress-related disorders and other mental health related disorders.