A new study from iPSYCH has found a correlation between glandular fever and an increased risk of depression
The new research, from an iPSYCH study, has found that patients who have had contact with the hospital due to serious glandular fever have a greater risk of developing depression.
Glandular fever – also called mononucleosis – primarily affects young people aged between 10-25 years. Symptoms include fatigue, pain in the neck, fever and swollen lymph nodes on the neck.
The register-based study followed 1,440,590 Danes, of whom 12,510 had contact with the hospital due to glandular fever. Of these 358 (3%) subsequently developed depression.
Professor and Research Director Michael Eriksen Benrós from the Mental Health Centre, Copenhagen, the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University, who is behind the study, said:
“Our study shows that it is associated with a 40% greater relative risk of developing depression if the patient has been in contact with a hospital due to glandular fever.
“It is well-known that mononucleosis infection can cause long-term fatigue afterwards, and we can now see that there is also an increased risk of developing actual depression, which requires contact with the hospital. Fortunately, this was only the case for 1 out of 35 with mononucleosis infection within the study’s follow-up.”
Lead author of the study, Nina Vindegaard from the Mental Health Centre, Copenhagen, said: “Previous studies of the correlation between glandular fever and subsequent depression have primarily been small studies and the correlation has therefore been unclear. This study is the first major study able to demonstrate the correlation with a subsequent risk of depression with great statistical strength.
“This knowledge is important – both for the patient and their parents, but also to a great extent for general practitioners – as there is an increased risk of depression after the infection.”
According to Michael Eriksen Benrós, part of the explanation for the increased risk may be that the brain is affected by the infection:
“We know that mononucleosis infection can lead to long-term fatigue, but the actual underlying mechanisms for how this happens to a greater extent for this particular infection compared to many other infections haven’t been identified. The general hypotheses are that it happens through activation of the immune system, which may also lie behind the increased risk of depression.”
The full study can be read in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.