Depression is a common mental disorder that affects more than 12 percent of the U.S. adolescent population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. A new study published in Liver Transplantation has found that many young adults who have chronic liver conditions also suffer from anxiety and depression, putting them at even higher risk than fellow teens.

Researchers examined 187 patients aged 16 to 25 years in London. All participants were attending an outpatient liver transition clinic, and filled out an electronically-administered questionnaire. Based on the answers, 17.7 percent of the patients had anxiety or depression — compared to the 4 percent to 6 percent prevalence in the general adolescent population.

Young people with liver disease could be at higher risk of anxiety and depression. Photo courtesy of Getty Images/David McNew

In the study, results showed that patients with depression or anxiety felt more affected emotionally by their illness. Their mental health affected how concerned they were about their illness, how many symptoms they experienced, and how much impact they felt it had on their lives.

"Health care professionals should be aware of the high prevalence of mental health problems in young people with liver conditions and routinely inquire about young people's psychosocial circumstances as both can impact on their illness and outcome," said lead researcher Dr. Marianne Samyn, according to Medical Xpress.

"Interestingly, the most common concerns young people with liver conditions report — such as lethargy, problems with sleeping and money, and work- or school-related issues — are very similar to their peers and can be addressed by a multidisciplinary team looking after them," she explained.

The research team sought to understand how prevalent anxiety and depression is in people with chronic liver disease and how mental health could affect beliefs about their illness and treatment.

Source: Hames A, Matcham F, Joshi D, Heneghan MA, Dhawan A, Heaton N, et al. Liver transplantation and adolescence: The role of mental health. Liver Transplantation. 2016.

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