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Approved research

Associations between physical multimorbidity and mental health outcomes in older adults

Principal Investigator: Dr Lucy Stirland
Approved Research ID: 24776
Approval date: July 24th 2017

Lay summary

My research will explore links between having numerous physical illnesses and subsequent mental health problems, mainly in older people. It is known that physical ill-health often co-exists with poor mental health, but it is not fully understood which specific combinations of physical conditions are more detrimental to mental health. I will investigate various mental health problems that affect older people, including depression and dementia. In addition, I will examine blood pressure readings over time to evaluate if changes in blood pressure are linked with mental health. My aim is to improve our understanding of the links between physical multimorbidity and mental health with overall benefit to the general public. My findings will provide evidence on the interaction of chronic conditions which may guide their treatment, perhaps lending support to the idea of focusing less on individual diseases and more on the net consequences of complex multi-disease interactions. If my findings suggest that physical multimorbidity may contribute to mental ill health, then this may also be helpful in preventing mental illnesses including dementia by effectively managing upstream physical health determinants. I will start by examining all the data to look for overall links and patterns between having multiple physical illnesses and mental health problems. I will take into account other factors that are known to have an effect on both types of conditions, such as family history, socioeconomic status, smoking and alcohol intake. After this general exploration, I will look into specific combinations of diseases and their links with mental health. Finally, I also have a specific objective to look at the impact that changes in blood pressure across the life course have on mental health. I will request data from the full UK Biobank cohort.