Study: Acne Linked to Higher Risk of Clinical Depression

A teenage girl examines her skin in a hand mirror.People diagnosed with acne are significantly more likely to develop clinical depression in the year following diagnosis, according to a UK study published in the British Journal of Dermatology. Acne is common among adolescents, but it can occur at any age.

The study’s authors had previously studied the link between depression and the anti-acne drug Accutane (isoretinoin). The authors found isoretinoin did not increase one’s risk of any mental health diagnoses. The authors then ran a follow-up study on whether depression was linked to acne itself. They found a strong correlation between acne and mental health.

Is Acne Linked to Depression?

The study gathered data from a United Kingdom primary care database. The data was collected between 1986 and 2012. It included medical records on people between the ages of 7 and 50 years old. Researchers compared the medical records of 134,437 people with an acne diagnosis to the records of 1,731,608 people without acne.

Over a 15-year period, people diagnosed with acne had an 18.5% chance of developing depression. In the general population, only 12% developed depression within 15 years. In other words, people diagnosed with acne had a 46% higher risk of developing depression.

In the year following an acne diagnosis, the risk of depression increased by 63%. This risk remained elevated for five years after diagnosis, then tapered off. Women were more likely than men to develop depression following an acne diagnosis.

The study did not assess acne severity. More research may be needed to see if severe acne is linked with a greater depression risk.

Acne and Mental Health

Prior research has connected acne to lower mood and body image. This study suggests an acne diagnosis can also impact mental health. The study authors recommend physicians watch for depression symptoms in patients with acne. Therapists may be better equipped to help people experiencing skin issues when they understand how skin health can affect mental health.


  1. New acne diagnoses linked to increased depression risk. (2018, February 19). Reuters. Retrieved from
  2. Vallerand, I. A., Lewinson, R. T., Parsons, L. M., Lowerison, M. W., Frolkis, A. D., Kaplan, G. G., . . . Patten, S. B. (2018). Risk of depression among patients with acne in the U.K.: A population-based cohort study. British Journal of Dermatology. doi:10.1111/bjd.16099

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  • g

    March 28th, 2018 at 11:37 AM

    Sadly this makes sense to me. Kids BULLY kids with acne more than kids without. Maybe if parents and teachers talked with kids about this more and called it out it would get better?

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