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Understanding the Link Between Eczema and Mental Health

NEW research has shed light on the close link between the common form of atopic dermatitis, eczema, and incidence of anxiety and depression. Multiple previous studies have noted that eczema increases the risk of anxiety and depression; however, estimates of the strength of the correlation and the size of the risk tend to vary widely.

Researchers pooled data from 20 studies, including a total of 141,910 people with eczema, and analysed the link to the two mental health conditions, depression and anxiety. The study carried out at the Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University, Yuxi, Yunnan, China, found that eczema was associated with a 64% increased risk of depression and a 68% increased risk of anxiety.

The study’s authors speculated that skin itching, disruptions to sleep, and associated social isolation could all increase an individual’s risk of depression or anxiety. Children with eczema are particularly vulnerable to stigmatisation, social isolation, and problems with self-esteem.

Whilst the authors emphasised that the physiological mechanisms that link eczema and mental health remain unclear, they noted some studies suggest shared physiological causes between the conditions such as oxidative stress and inflammation. Evidence from recent mouse and human clinical trials has demonstrated that the drug dupilumab, which inhibits immune signalling molecules, not only improved eczema symptoms but reduced anxiety and depressions.