Why do we itch? The reasons are many and varied. But what’s becoming ever clearer is many who experience chronic itching due to skin conditions also shoulder a profound psychological burden no scratching can relieve.
While the nature of this link around conditions like eczema and psoriasis has been investigated before, scientists say we’re still only beginning to understand how skin disorders, mental health problems, and quality of life all intersect.
“There are already studies showing evidence of a correlation between itch and mental health problems in general, and in specific skin disorders, but there is a lack of a cross-sectional study across chronic skin diseases,” says dermatologist Florence J. Dalgard from Lund University in Sweden.
To help fill that gap, Dalgard and her team analysed data collected from thousands of dermatology patients with skin issues in 13 European countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and elsewhere.
In total, over 3,500 patients with varying skin diseases took part in the study, undergoing physical examinations and filling out a questionnaire which asked questions about their socio-economic background and experiences with itching, while also measuring symptoms of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
More than 1,300 people without skin conditions acted as a control group, self-reporting the same information.
When the research team analysed the responses, they found a number of associations between skin conditions, itching, mood disorders, and quality of life impairments.