By Wayne Meng

It would come as no surprise to anyone living with chronic disease that there’s a correlation between depression/anxiety and chronic disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, depression is common among people with conditions including cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. These issues have been further compounded lately by increased social isolation resulting from COVID-19 and the added fact that older adults with chronic conditions are at highest risk for severe illness if they contract the disease.

However, one unintended consequence of COVID-19 has been the rise of telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) and the promise of hope they deliver to this patient population.

“It is estimated that up to one-third of individuals with a serious medical condition have symptoms of depression,” according to an article from the Cleveland Clinic. “Depression is especially likely to occur when the illness causes pain, disability, or social isolation.” What’s more, “depression caused by chronic illness can aggravate the illness, causing a vicious cycle to develop.”2

Geriatric patients are also at increased risk for these kinds of mental health challenges because they are disproportionately affected by chronic disease. Approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two, according to the National Council on Aging.3 Diabetes alone affects 23% of Americans older than age 60, and 90% of Americans aged 55 and older are at risk for developing hypertension. The National Council on Aging also notes that 1 in 4 older adults experience some mental disorder, including depression and anxiety, and that people aged 85 and older have the highest suicide rate of any group.

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