HealthDay News — Anxiety and depression predict poor future physical health as strongly as obesity and smoking in older adults, according to a study published online Dec. 17 in Health Psychology.

Andrea Niles, Ph.D., and Aoife O’Donovan, both from the University of California in San Francisco, used data from the Health and Retirement study (15,418 participants; median age, 68 years) to analyze associations between anxiety and depression symptoms and onset of self-reported physical health indices over four years.

The researchers found that anxiety and depression symptoms predicted a greater incidence of nearly all medical illnesses (heart disease, stroke, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer) and somatic symptoms (stomach problems, shortness of breath, dizziness, back pain, headache, pain, and eyesight difficulties). Effects of anxiety and depression were as strong as or stronger than those of obesity and smoking. Anxiety and depression independently increased the risk for most physical health indices, including heart conditions (odds ratio [OR], 1.27), stroke (OR, 1.30), high blood pressure (OR, 1.21), and arthritis (OR, 1.33).

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“Anxiety and depression symptoms are strongly linked to poor physical health, yet these conditions continue to receive limited attention in primary care settings, compared to smoking and obesity,” Niles said in a statement.

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