High levels of anxiety or depression indirectly increases the risk of death from liver disease, says a new study. The study from University of Edinburgh's Center for Clinical Brain Sciences provides further evidence for the important links between mind and body.
"Psychological stress can have a damaging effect on physical well-being. While we are not able to confirm direct cause and effect, this study does provide evidence that requires further consideration in future studies," said lead researcher Tom Russ.
For the study, the team investigated responses to a questionnaire capturing psychological distress in more than 165,000 people. They then track participants' progress over a 10-year period, examining who died and the causes of death. Individuals who scored highly for symptoms of psychological distress were more likely to later die from liver disease than those with lower scores.
The study took into account factors such as alcohol consumption, obesity, diabetes and socioeconomic status.
"Reasons for this are unclear as the biological links between psychological distress and liver disease are not well understood so far," the researchers said.
Previous research suggests mental distress can put people at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. At the same time, risk factors for cardiovascular disease - such as obesity and raised blood pressure - have been linked to a common form of liver disease, known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
"In a similar way, suffering from anxiety and depression may be indirectly linked to an increased risk of death from liver disease," the authors wrote.
The study appeared in the journal Gastroenterology.