Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that affects 5-10% of people with ovaries. According to a study presented at the Society for Endocrinology’s annual conference, PCOS may increase the risk of mental health issues. Previous research has also found a link between PCOS and poor mental health, but these studies had smaller data sets and tested different variables.
PCOS causes unusually high levels of hormones called androgens. This hormonal imbalance provokes the development of cysts in the ovaries and difficulties in egg production. PCOS, a leading cause of infertility, can also cause weight gain, heavy or irregular periods, acne, excess facial hair, and insulin resistance.
The study recommends doctors regularly screen people with PCOS for symptoms of mental health concerns.
PCOS Linked to Mental Health Issues
The study gathered data on 16,986 people diagnosed with PCOS between 2000-2014 identified through the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. Researchers analyzed a minimum of six months’ data for each group member. Then they matched participants to people without PCOS but controlled for age, Body Mass Index (BMI), and primary care providers.
People with PCOS were more likely to have certain mental health conditions:
- Rate of depression: 23.1% of PCOS group compared to 19.3 % of control group
- Rate of anxiety: 11.5% of PCOS group compared to 9.3% of control group
- Rate of bipolar: 3.2% of PCOS group compared to 1.5% of control group
How PCOS Affects Mental Health and Child Outcomes
The study did not assess how or why PCOS might lead to worse mental health. Instead, it established correlations that warrant further research.
High testosterone levels during pregnancy have previously been linked to an increased risk of ADHD and autism in children. People with PCOS tend to have higher testosterone levels. In the study, the people with PCOS were also more likely to have children who had ADHD or were on the autism spectrum.
PCOS can be difficult to live with. People with the condition may struggle to get or stay pregnant, face body image issues, or worry about their health. Future studies could assess the role these factors and hormonal differences play in the mental health of people with PCOS.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome. (2017, July 26). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome
- Women with PCOS should be screened for mental health disorders. (2017, November 5). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-11/sfe-wwp110217.php
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