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Young people with chronic liver conditions at increased risk of anxiety and depression

Researchers from King’s College London have called for a greater focus on the mental health of teenagers and young people with chronic liver conditions, after a study found they have an increased risk of anxiety and depression.  

Researchers from King’s College London have called for a greater focus on the mental health of teenagers and young people with chronic liver conditions, after a study found they have an increased risk of anxiety and depression.  


Depression and anxiety seemed to influence how patients felt their illness
affected them emotionally. Picture: iStock

The researchers studied 187 patients aged 16-25 who were attending an outpatient liver transition clinic in London. Patients were divided into three groups: those who had undergone liver transplantation, those with autoimmune liver disease and those with chronic liver conditions. 

The study found that 17.7% of the patients studied screened positive for anxiety or depression – significantly higher than the 4-6% prevalence in the general adolescent population. 

Distress was most frequently attributed to fatigue, sleep difficulties, financial concerns, problems at work or school and low self-esteem. No significant differences were seen between the disease groups. 

The researchers also found depression and anxiety seemed to influence how patients felt their illness affected them emotionally, how concerned they were about their illness, how many symptoms they experienced and how much impact they felt the illness had on their lives. 

Lead study author Marianne Samyn said: ‘Healthcare 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.’


Hames A et al (2016) Liver transplantation and adolescence: The role of mental health. Liver Transplantation. doi:10.1002/lt.24629 

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