Depression and IBD


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We hope that understanding how the brain and IBD interact will improve both the physical and mental wellbeing of people living with IBD.

Dr Richard Pollok
St George’s, University of London

What is this research looking at?  

People with Crohn’s or colitis are more likely to experience depression than the general population. But the relationship between symptoms of IBD, use of antidepressants, flares and the impact of bowel surgery on mental health are not well-understood. To learn more about this, the study has a number of aims.  

To find out who might be most at risk of depression and how it is treated, researchers will answer the following questions:   

  • How common is depression in people with IBD?  
  • What factors make depression more likely?  
  • How are antidepressants used to treat people with depression and IBD?   
  • Has this changed over the past 10 years and if so how.  

Small studies have suggested that antidepressant medication may reduce the number of flares and the need for steroid treatment.  The research team will explore whether people with depression and IBD experience more flares, and look at the impact of antidepressant use on flares and the need for steroids.    

Bowel surgery is a treatment option for about half of people with Crohn’s and 1 in 6 who have ulcerative colitis. But the impact of IBD-related surgery on mental health, particularly for people considering a stoma, is unknown.  The researchers want to know what the relationship is between having surgery – in particular having a stoma - and developing depression.   

To answer these questions, the team will examine the medical records of more than 19,500 people with IBD from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink database.  

What do the researchers think this could mean for people with IBD?  

Understanding what influences depression in people with IBD and the effect depression can have on symptoms will help health professionals address the mental health needs of people with Crohn’s and colitis.  

Findings could also lead to more effective support in shared decision-making regarding surgery, especially for people considering stoma.  And a greater understanding of how antidepressant medication impacts on flares could suggest a novel treatment approach to flare management.  

Who is leading the research: Dr Richard Pollok, St George’s, University of London 
Award amount: £89,670 
Duration: 18 months  
Official title of the application: Depression and antidepressant medications: their relationship to clinical outcomes in IBD