Study Finds Association between IBD Activity and Severity of Depression

Dealing with a chronic illness like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be frustrating, discouraging and at times even isolating. Painful symptoms like abdominal cramping and diarrhea can strike at the most inopportune times, and some patients find themselves avoiding social situations for fear of embarrassment. An estimated 1.6 million Americans suffer from IBD, and many of them experience anxiety or depression as a result of their condition. In fact, one study found that IBD patients are twice as likely to suffer depression in comparison to the general population.

Doctors know that depressive symptoms are common in IBD patients, but a recent study found that the severity of depression is associated with disease activity and quality of life. Study author Victor Chedid, M.D., from the University of Pittsburgh, and his colleagues evaluated 465 IBD patients during routine visits to an outpatient IBD clinic. The goal of the study was to identify rates and predictors of moderate depression and suicidality in IBD patients and identify characteristics of at-risk patients (Source: NCBI).

During their clinic visits, patients were screened using a series of questionnaires:

  • The patient health questionnaire (PHQ9) screened patients for depression and suicidality
  • The Harvey-Bradshaw CD Index or the UC Activity Index assessed disease activity
  • The Short IBD Questionnaire (SIBDQ) assessed patient quality of life

Data on patient demographics, pain, narcotic use and surgical history were obtained from electronic medical records.

The overall results showed an average SIBDQ score of 51, average IBD activity was 4.25, 23 percent of participants had at least moderate depression and 7 percent reported suicidality.

Patients with moderate depression had an average PHQ9 score of 14.5, average SIBDQ score of 35, average IBD activity score of 7.3, and 25 percent were suicidal.

Researchers concluded that quality of life, disease activity, pain, narcotic use and surgery were correlated with severity of depression. They identified quality of life, severity of depression, disease activity, pain and surgery as predictors of suicidality.

“Depressive severity is most associated with disease activity and [quality of life] while suicidality is most associated with depressive severity and less so with IBD activity,” Chedid said. “It is worthwhile to screen your patients with IBD for depression and suicidality … to improve the quality of care that’s provided” (Source: Healio).