Rwanda Journal

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The co-morbidity of depression and other chronic non-communicable diseases: a review of literature on the epidemiology, diagnosis and health effects

Madeleine Mukeshimana, Gugu Mchunu


Background: Non-communicable diseases are the most common causes of death worldwide. Alongside mortality, noncommunicable diseases also cause high rates of morbidity and disability. The common comorbidity issues of depression worldwide are not a rare occurrence and as depression is chronic in nature it would double or even triple these health threats.

Objectives: This paper highlights the epidemiology of the comorbidity of depression as a chronic non-communicable disease, highlighting the health effects of depression and examines specialized tools used to identify depression in patients.

Methods: This literature search included the following computerized databases: MEDLINE, Academic Search Premier, Nexus, EBSCOhost, and CINAHL to review articles published from 1991 to 2012. The reviewed articles were quantitative and data were analysed using mostly different versions of SPSS® statistical package.

Results and Conclusion: Worldwide established tools were utilized to identify depression in patients with non-communicable diseases. The validated tools include Beck’s Depression Inventory, the Patient Health Questionnaire and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. The prevalence of depression was found to be significantly higher in those with chronic non-communicable diseases in all regions of the world. The health effects of depression found in literature review included a high morbidity and mortality, as well as increased health costs.

Conclusion: Significantly higher depression among patients with chronic NCDs suggests that regular screening of depression in this population is warranted. Likewise, the use of validated tool for assessment of depression is essential.

Keywords: Depression, Non-communicable diseases, comorbidity of depression and non-communicable diseases, detection of comorbidity
AJOL African Journals Online