Depression Linked to Rapid Kidney Function Decline – Even in People With Healthy Kidneys

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Human Kidney

Among individuals with healthy kidneys, those with more frequent depressive symptoms were more likely to show signs of rapid kidney function decline over a median follow-up of 4 years.

 In a study of adults with normal kidney function, those who had frequent depressive symptoms were more likely to later experience a rapid decline in kidney function. The study will appear in an upcoming issue of CJASN.

Depression is a common condition in middle-aged and older adults, and it can contribute to a variety of mental and physical problems. Previous research has found a link between depressive symptoms and rapid kidney function decline in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). To look for a potential link in adults with normal kidney function as well, a team led by Xianhui Qin, MD (Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, in China) examined information on 4,763 individuals with healthy kidneys when they enrolled in the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS).

At the start of the study, 39% of participants had high depressive symptoms, and during a median follow-up of 4 years, 260 (6%) participants experienced rapid kidney function decline. There was a significant association between depressive symptoms at the start of the study and rapid decline in kidney function during follow-up. Participants with frequent depressive symptoms were 1.4-times more likely to experience rapid kidney function decline than participants with infrequent depressive symptoms, after adjustments.

“CKD is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, and mortality worldwide. Therefore, the identification of more modifiable risk factors may possibly reduce the huge burden of CKD and its related complications by leading to early detection and prevention,” said Dr. Qin. “While our study does not show causality, it demonstrated that high depressive symptoms were significantly associated with rapid decline in kidney function among Chinese adults with normal kidney function. If further confirmed, our data provide some evidence for depressive symptom screening and effective psychosocial interventions to improve the prevention of CKD.”

An accompanying Pantiet Voice article provides the perspective of a two-time kidney transplant recipient with an American-Born Chinese background.


“Association of Depressive Symptoms with Rapid Kidney Function Decline in Adults with Normal Kidney Function” 28 May 2021, Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
DOI: 10.2215/CJN.18441120

“Depressive Symptoms and Rapid Kidney Function Decline” 28 May 2021, Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
DOI: 10.2215/CJN.04050321.

Study co-authors include Zhuxian Zhang, MD, Panpan He, MD, Mengyi Liu, MD, Chun Zhou, MD, Chengzhang Liu, MS, Huan Li, MD, Yuanyuan Zhang, MD, Qinqin Li, MD, Ziliang Ye, MD, Qimeng Wu, MD, Guobao Wang, MD, and Min Liang, MD.


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