Global Lyme Alliance Funds Groundbreaking Study Linking Lyme Disease to Psychiatric Disorders

Lyme disease infection linked to increased risk of mental health problems.

This work is important and compelling because it shows the significant impact that Lyme disease has on mental health, which has been neglected for so long. We need meaningful research efforts to better understand this, to raise awareness, and to better treat patients.

Global Lyme Alliance (GLA), the largest 501(c)(3) dedicated to conquering Lyme and other tick-borne diseases through research, education, and patient services, congratulates Dr. Michael Eriksen Benros of Copenhagen University Hospital and Dr. Brian Fallon of Columbia University on the publication of their major findings of elevated risk of psychiatric illness in Lyme disease patients. Their two-year study, funded by GLA, was just published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

It has long been suspected that Lyme disease may increase the risk of psychiatric disorders, including depression and suicidal ideation. However, knowledge to date has been based on small studies of limited numbers of patients. The ground-breaking study, led by the Copenhagen team, was a large, epidemiological analysis of Danish health, labor, and administrative registries that collected data from almost 7 million people over 22 years. This population included more than 12,000 people diagnosed with Lyme disease. Beyond its large sample size, the paper also adjusts for age, sex, comorbidities, and socioeconomic factors that may also influence mental illness. Says GLA’s Director of Research and Science Mayla Hsu, Ph.D., “This work is important and compelling because it shows the significant impact that Lyme disease has on mental health, which has been neglected for so long. We need meaningful research efforts to better understand this, to raise awareness, and to better treat patients.”

This study found that with a single diagnosis of Lyme disease, there is a 24% increased risk of any mental disorder, including depression. With two or more episodes of Lyme disease, that risk increases to 79%. Moreover, people with Lyme disease have a two-fold higher risk—75% higher—of dying by suicide than those without Lyme disease. The elevated risk of mental disorders was highest in subjects age 20-29, suggesting the particular vulnerability of young people.

Of the study’s results, Lead Investigator Dr. Benros says, “Treating clinicians and patients should be aware of an increased risk of mental health problems, particularly the first year after a severe Lyme disease infection, and if mental health issues arise, patients should seek relevant treatment and guidance.”

ABOUT GLOBAL LYME ALLIANCE

Global Lyme Alliance (GLA) is the leading 501(c)(3) dedicated to conquering Lyme disease through research, education, and patient services. GLA has gained national prominence for funding the most urgent and promising research in the field while expanding education and awareness programs for the general public and physicians. We support those around the globe needing information about tick-borne diseases, finding a Lyme treating physician, and the first Lyme-specific peer-to-peer mentor support program. Learn more at https://globallymealliance.org.

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