Mild Psychological Distress Associated With Disability

Those with even mild distress more likely to receive disability pensions within five years

FRIDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Even mild psychological distress can result in long-term disability, according to a population-based study published online March 21 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Dheeraj Rai, M.B.B.S., M.R.C.Psych., of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues followed 17,205 individuals 18 to 64 years of age for new disability pension awards to assess for an association between increasing levels of psychological distress and the five-year risk of long-term disability pensions awarded for psychiatric or somatic problems.

The researchers found increasing levels of baseline psychological distress, even mild psychological distress, associated with an increased chance of receiving a disability pension in the future (hazard ratios for those with mild distress, 1.7 and 2.2 for somatic and psychiatric diagnoses, respectively). More than 25 percent and nearly two-thirds of pensions awarded for somatic and psychiatric diagnoses, respectively, were attributable to psychological distress.

"Mild psychological distress may be associated with more long-term disability than previously acknowledged and its public health importance may be underestimated," the authors write.

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