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March 19, 2021

Dr. Jonathan Alpert on Medical Comorbidities in Patients with Depression

(Part 1 of a 5-part series) In this video, Jonathan E. Alpert, MD, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, New York City, New York, discusses the occurrence of medical comorbidities in patients with depression. Dr. Alpert recently presented "Treating Depression with Other Medical Comorbidity" at the Nevada Psychiatric Association's 26th National Psychopharmacology Update.

In upcoming installments of this video series, Dr. Alpert will explore which medical conditions most frequently co-occur with depression, evidence gaps in the research on people with depression and medical comorbidities, adapting depression treatment in patients with comorbid medical conditions, and special considerations for patients with depression and COVID-19.

It isn't uncommon for people with depression to have other medical conditions. That's true across the lifespan, both in children and adolescents, and certainly in later life.

And the relationship is truly in two directions. Often, we think of depression as arising in reaction to medical illness. That certainly can be the case. For example, somebody has heart disease and then develops depression subsequent to that.

But it's also understood that for any medical conditions, depression seems to be a risk factor. That is to say if you have depression, you're more likely to go on in later life to develop certain conditions.

For example, the American Heart Association considers depression a risk factor for heart disease in the way that they consider hypertension, diabetes, obesity, or elevated cholesterol as a risk factor for heart disease. There's about a 60 to 70 percent increased rate of developing heart disease if somebody already has depression.

So, again, depression is commonly associated with medical illness. And the relationships go in both directions.

Jonathan E. Alpert, MD, PhD, is the Dorothy and Marty Silverman University Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry, Neuroscience and Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, New York City, New York. He is also Chair of the American Psychiatric Association Council on Research. Before joining Montefiore Einstein in 2017, Dr. Alpert worked at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, for 24 years. His roles included Director of the Depression Clinical and Research Program and Associate Chief of Psychiatry. Dr. Alpert has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching and mentorship, scholarship, and patient care, and has authored more than 220 publications. His academic interests include treatment-resistant depression, treatment of depression with comorbid conditions, mental health disparities, ethical issues in research design, and medical education.