Patients with chronic health conditions, particularly chronic kidney disease, are at heightened risk for psychiatric disorders. A group of scientists conducted a study to learn more about the mental health of patients with glomerular disease and published it in the journal Glomerular Diseases. We spoke with the corresponding author of this study, Hailey E. Desmond from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
How did you come to the hypothesis on the association between psychiatric disorders and glomerular disease?
Since 2015 I have collaborated with a program called the Kidney Research Network (KRN). Within the Kidney Research Network we are supported by a patient advisory board comprised of patients and caregivers of those with glomerular disease. Glomerular diseases are a group of kidney diseases that affect the filters in the kidney. The symptoms and treatments for glomerular disease have a significant impact on patients’ quality of life. During conversations with our advisors, the topic of the mental health implications of glomerular disease regularly came up. I have a history working in mental health disorders and wanted to champion a study to explore the mental health of patients with glomerular kidney disease. After reviewing existing literature, we found this to be a topic that was not well addressed so we pursued the KRN registry of approximately 1,200 patients to investigate the relationship.
What would be the take-home message for interested patients who may read your article?
Like other chronic conditions, individuals with glomerular kidney disease may be at increased risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Our study found that about 1 in 8 patients were diagnosed with a mental health disorder after the onset of kidney disease. The rate was highest among adolescents when compared with adults and younger children. Furthermore, those who had end-stage kidney disease (kidney failure) were more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. We are working to raise awareness in the health care community and encourage individuals with glomerular disease to talk to their health care team if they are experiencing signs of anxiety or depression.
How could your findings change patients’ lives?
We hope our findings can empower patients to recognize their risk for these conditions and feel confident discussing them with their health care team as part of their overall health.
Which group of patients may especially benefit from your research?
While all patients may benefit from the knowledge gained from this study, we feel it is particularly impactful for adolescents and caregivers of adolescents. It is important to recognize and engage in discussions to encourage mental health.
What are the next steps to translate your research findings to patients?
First, as part of the Kidney Research Network, we are launching the second phase of a quality improvement project to encourage mental health screening annually in patients with glomerular kidney disease. Second, we encourage the integration of mental health screening into practice and prompt referral to mental health care specialists when needed.
With regards to patients living with glomerular disease, what are your next research projects?
The Kidney Research Network’s mission is to improve evidence-based treatment options and optimize health outcomes for patients with glomerular diseases. We have many projects that are ongoing to advance this mission. Visit the Kidney Research Network website to learn more!
Thank you very much for your time and your insight.