The British Journal of Psychiatry
Levels of anxiety and depression as predictors of mortality: the HUNT study
Arnstein Mykletun, Ottar Bjerkeset, Simon Øverland, Martin Prince, Michael Dewey, Robert Stewart



Depression is reported to be associated with increased mortality, although underlying mechanisms are uncertain. Associations between anxiety and mortality are also uncertain.


To investigate associations between individual and combined anxiety/depression symptom loads (using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS)) and mortality over a 3–6 year period.


We utilised a unique link between a large population survey (HUNT–2, n = 61 349) and a comprehensive mortality database.


Case-level depression was associated with increased mortality (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.52, 95% CI 1.35–1.72) comparable with that of smoking (HR = 1.59, 95% CI 1.44–1.75), and which was only partly explained by somatic symptoms/conditions. Anxiety comorbid with depression lowered mortality compared with depression alone (anxiety depression interaction P = 0.017). The association between anxiety symptom load and mortality was U-shaped.


Depression as a risk factor for mortality was comparable in strength to smoking. Comorbid anxiety reduced mortality compared with depression alone. The relationship between anxiety symptoms and mortality was more complex with a U-shape and highest mortality in those with the lowest anxiety symptom loads.

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