Anxiety and depressive symptoms and medical illness among adults with anxiety disorders

J Psychosom Res. 2015 Feb;78(2):109-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2014.11.018. Epub 2014 Nov 25.


Objective: Anxiety is linked to a number of medical conditions, yet few studies have examined how symptom severity relates to medical comorbidity.

Purpose: The current study assessed associations between severity of anxiety and depression and the presence of medical conditions in adults diagnosed with anxiety disorders.

Method: Nine-hundred eighty-nine patients diagnosed with panic, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorders reported on the severity of anxiety and depressive symptoms and on diagnoses of 11 medical conditions.

Results: Severity of anxiety and depressive symptoms was strongly associated with having more medical conditions over and above control variables, and the association was as strong as that between BMI and disease. Odds of having asthma, heart disease, back problems, ulcer, migraine headache and eyesight difficulties also increased as anxiety and depressive symptom severity increased. Anxiety symptoms were independently associated with ulcer, whereas depressive symptoms were independently associated with heart disease, migraine, and eyesight difficulties.

Conclusions: These findings add to a growing body of research linking anxiety disorders with physical health problems and indicate that anxiety and depressive symptoms deserve greater attention in their association with disease.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Health psychology; Medical comorbidity; Psychosomatics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / complications
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / psychology
  • Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Back Pain / psychology
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / epidemiology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / psychology
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology
  • Heart Diseases / psychology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology
  • Self Report
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stomach Ulcer / epidemiology
  • Stomach Ulcer / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Diseases / epidemiology
  • Thyroid Diseases / psychology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vision Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Vision Disorders / psychology