Acne Can Increase the Risk for Depression

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People with acne are at substantially higher risk for depression in the first years after the condition appears, a new study reports.

Researchers used a British database of 134,427 men and women with acne and 1,731,608 without and followed them for 15 years. Most were under 19 at the start of the study, though they ranged in age from 7 to 50. The study is in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Over the 15-year study period, the probability of developing major depression was 18.5 percent among patients with acne and 12 percent in those without.

People with acne were more likely to be female, younger, nonsmokers and of higher socioeconomic status. They were also less likely to use alcohol or be obese.

After adjusting for these factors, the scientists found that the increased risk for depression persisted only for the first five years after diagnosis. The risk was highest in the first year, when there was a 63 percent increased risk of depression in a person with acne compared to someone without. The reason for the association is unclear.

The lead author, Isabelle A. Vallerand, an epidemiologist at the University of Calgary, said she was surprised to see such a markedly increased risk.

“It appears that acne is a lot more than just skin deep,” she said. “It can have a substantial impact on overall mental health.”