Background: Poorer physical function in patients with depressive or anxiety disorders has been reported, but is often measured by self-reports which may be biased by mood. This study examined the association between depression and anxiety and physical function using objective measures in a large cohort, and investigated which psychiatric characteristics are associated with physical function.
Methods: Baseline data from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety were used, including persons with current depressive and/or anxiety disorders (n = 1629) and healthy controls without lifetime diagnoses (n = 629). Psychiatric characteristics studied included type of disorder, duration, severity, age of onset, and antidepressant use. Hand grip strength and lung function were used as general objective measurements of physical function.
Results: Women with depressive or anxiety disorders had significantly poorer physical function - both lower grip strength and lung function - compared to healthy controls, especially those with a late age of onset (≥ 40 years). Poorer lung function was present among the women using antidepressants, those with higher symptom severity, and those with depression compared to anxiety disorder. In men, depressive or anxiety disorder was associated with better lung function but not with hand grip strength.
Limitations: Due to the cross-sectional design no causal relationships could be established.
Conclusions: In women, depressive or anxiety disorders were associated with objective indicators of poorer physical function. Since this association was most pronounced for later onset disorders, it suggests a larger role of physical function in depressive and anxiety disorders at later age.
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