The study, first published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, has found a link between skin irritation and higher levels of clinical depression, suicidal ideation and stress.
To investigate the skin's role in these conditions, researchers analysed 3,530 people with diseases like prurigo, eczema, and psoriasis, and compared them with 1,000 people with no skin concerns. The frequency and intensity of each itch was recorded and each participant was evaluated on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Their intention was to establish how much of an impact the itching had over their mental health – even in the cases that weren’t chronic.
Those who felt itchy due to their skin disease had a 14 per cent likelihood of having depression, compared to just 5.7 per cent for those who weren’t experiencing any irritation at that time. In addition, the healthy participants suffering from itchy skin (say, as a result of weather, allergies or other environmental factors) had a 6 per cent depression rate. In healthy individuals with no itching, this was just 3 per cent.
Interestingly, the people with itchy skin also reported more stressful life events and economic hardships.
"Our research shows that itch has a high impact on quality of life," the study’s lead researcher Dr Florence J. Dalgard said. "This study illustrates the burden of the symptom of itch and its multidimensional aspect."
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