The Depression-Acne Connection We Should All Be Talking About

Photo: Kayla Snell

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Anyone who's ever struggled with their skin—whether it be related to gut health issues or a hormonal imbalance—knows that acne is zero fun. It can be painful, frustrating, and difficult to find a solution that really works. Therefore, a new study showing that people who suffer from acne are more likely to develop depression didn't come as a huge surprise.

But what if the connection between depression and acne has nothing to do with self-esteem? Some scientists posit that the connection between the two conditions has more to do with the specific inflammatory response that occurs in skin conditions, which may also be responsible for some mental health issues. In other words: Acne doesn't cause depression, but acne and depression might be caused by the same underlying issue. It's a new area of study called psychodermatology.

For this study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, researchers followed 130,000 people with acne and 1.7 million people without acne, tracking their physical and mental health for over 15 years. The results showed that there was definitely a connection between and an acne diagnosis and an increased risk of developing depression in the subsequent years. How much of a link, exactly? The New York Times reported that "the probability of developing major depression was 18.5 percent among patients with acne and 12 percent in those without." The risk for depression was strongest in the first five years after an acne diagnosis and especially high in the first year after the diagnosis—at a 63 percent increased risk of depression in sufferers versus non-acne sufferers.

Again, these numbers won't be shocking to anyone who has struggled with their skin, but it's also interesting to consider the idea that the connection has more to do with inflammation than the low self-esteem or social isolation that can sometimes accompany acne. But whatever the true cause, the connection between the two conditions is real, and it would be great to see more mental health resources and support for those suffering with acne.

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