One in five cases of depression is attributable to work stress, according to an international study led by researchers from the Hospital Clínic-IDIBAPS, which has also determined that eliminating childhood adversities, such as bullying, would prevent one in three cases of schizophrenia.
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The study, which is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, has been coordinated by the head of the Imaging of Mood and Anxiety Related Disorders (IMARD) group at IDIBAPS and a CIBERSAM researcher, Joaquim Raduà, with the participation of the University of Linköping (Sweden), King's College London and Hospital Gregorio Marañón.
The work demonstrates and quantifies that a reduction in childhood adversities could reduce the incidence of mental disorders in adulthood. Raduà explained that mental disorders are multifactorial, that is, they depend on the combination of multiple factors: genetic, biological, psychological or environmental.
Apart from non-modifiable causes in people who have a disorder, several studies have identified numerous modifiable risk factors involved in its development, such as those associated with lifestyle or society, although it is unknown how many disorders could be prevented by modifying these factors risky.
“In many respects, we live in a welfare society. But despite this apparent bonanza, around one in five people currently has a mental disorder”, Raduà stressed. "The question that this study wanted to answer is whether there would be fewer mental disorders if we improved society and lifestyle", added the coordinator of the work.
The study authors looked for environmental risk factors with the highest level of prospective evidence to calculate the population attributable fraction, which measures what percentage of cases of a disorder can be attributed to a particular risk factor.
The result is that reducing childhood adversities could prevent one in three cases of schizophrenia and reducing child abuse could prevent one in six cases of depression, while reducing work stress would prevent one in five cases of depression.
Regarding lifestyle, doing more physical exercise could prevent one in six cases of Alzheimer's; reducing metabolic risk factors, such as excess fat in the blood, could prevent one in ten cases of depression; and avoiding being overweight before or during pregnancy could prevent one in fifteen cases of autism in children.
“That means we could prevent millions of people from developing mental disorders. But it also means that many disorders, probably most, would still be there. That is why it is so important to dedicate more resources to mental health research to create treatments that more effectively improve the quality of life of people with one of these disorders”, the researchers concluded.