Depression, anxiety, and loneliness among adolescents and young adults with IBD in the UK: the role of disease severity, age of onset, and embarrassment of the condition

from Quality of Life Research at on September 30, 2020 at 04:33PM



Adolescents and young adults (AYA) with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) report higher depressive symptoms and anxiety compared to healthy controls, with disease severity and abdominal pain being important factors. In the current study, building on what young people had told us in our previous work, we examined whether embarrassment of the condition, social self-efficacy, and friendship quality mediated the relationship between abdominal pain and disease severity, and mental health/well-being. We also included loneliness as a component of well-being.


Data on depression, anxiety, loneliness, friendship quality, social self-efficacy, and disease embarrassment were collected from 130 AYA with IBD ages 14–25 years; data on disease severity and abdominal pain were taken from their medical records. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was used to test the relationships between the variables.


Using SEM, we established that higher IBD disease activity negatively impacted how AYA felt about their friendships and how embarrassed they were about their condition; embarrassment then influenced reports of mental health, including loneliness. Abdominal pain, disease onset, and social self-efficacy directly predicted internalising problems.


In this sample of 14–25-year-old patients with IBD, specifics about the disease (severity and pain) predicted poorer mental health, suggesting discussion of mental health should be part of the clinical dialogue between patient and consultant. In addition, embarrassment about their condition increased depression, anxiety, and loneliness, mediating the relationship between disease severity and well-being. Thus, it is important to consider how perceived stigma affects those with chronic illness, and those issues should be explored in clinic.