According to the WHO, up to 125 million people around the world live with psoriasis. That’s around 3% of the global population. What if you knew that each of those individuals, all 125 million of them, are more likely to suffer from additional, preventable diseases as a result of their condition?
This is just one of the findings of The World Psoriasis Report 2018, which reveals the devastating impact of psoriasis on happiness and general wellbeing.
Now in its second year, the report shows that the link between psoriasis, loneliness and misery is more real than ever before. Almost 80,000 people from 21 countries contributed to the study. Their stories are proof that it’s time to change the way we support those living with psoriasis – starting now.
Up to 51% of those living with self-reported psoriasis live in misery
According to this year’s study, misery as a mental state is very common among those with psoriasis. Countries such as Australia, the Czech Republic and the UK rank lowest for happiness, topped only by China, where more than 51% of people with self-reported psoriasis live in misery.
Factors contributing to such low levels of happiness are not only driven by the physical hardships of psoriasis, but also the social and mental impact of the condition. Stress, loneliness, anxiety, depression and social isolation are all common parts of life with psoriasis, which inevitably has a profound impact on a person’s general well-being. Poor mental and social well-being are stronger predictors of unhappiness than the four key risk factors most commonly prioritised in the understanding of NCDs (tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and the harmful use of alcohol). Poor mental health is diffused throughout various lifestyle factors for people living with self-reported psoriasis, accenting that the condition is experienced mentally and socially first and foremost.
Unemployment is detrimental to health – especially when it’s permanent
One of the standout findings from this year’s report is the impact that an inability to work has on overall happiness – and health – levels.
The study shows that over half (50.8%) of all people who are unable to work also live in loneliness – even when adopting a conservative interpretation of loneliness.
This is of particular concern, as loneliness is strongly correlated with poor health status.
In fact, loneliness is the best predictor of the number of additional diseases or conditions (known as comorbidities) that a person living with psoriasis is likely to experience. While 21.1% of people that have no comorbidities are lonely, that number is almost doubled (41.2%) amongst people living with 3 comorbidities. The figures suggest that those living with psoriasis who are unable to work, are far more likely to experience other mental or physical conditions that will worsen their overall objective health status.
To put it plainly, an inability to work is irrefutably linked to psoriatic comorbidities such as depression, heart disease and back pain, and an overall worsening of general health. Respondents who claimed to be highly impacted by depression or anxiety reported to have missed approximately four times more work hours than those who claimed to be not at all impacted by these conditions.
This decline in general health is not only disruptive on a personal level, but has huge economic repercussions too. In the US alone, the estimated cost of lost productivity to society is over $30 billion.
Psoriasis is linked to the growing problem of life-threatening non-communicable diseases
Over 25% of all those surveyed reported to be living with depression, with many also reporting high levels of social isolation.
The impact that psoriasis has on social isolation may also have a detrimental impact on the kinds of ‘bad habits’ that people pick up, for example lack of exercise and a poor diet. These are 2 of the 4 key risk factors that cause non-communicable diseases, making those living with psoriasis potentially far more at risk from preventable conditions.
The figures speak for themselves: of those surveyed, 28% reported to also be living with back pain, 22.3% with joint diseases, 19% with high blood pressure, and 10.5% with a metabolic disease such as diabetes.
Non communicable diseases affect men and women differently
The World Psoriasis Happiness Report 2018 clearly shows that certain non-communicable diseases affect men and women differently.
Perhaps of most concern is that women living with psoriasis are almost twice as likely to be suffering from a mental health condition than men. Women also more often suffer from back pain, joint diseases and ulcer and stomach diseases, while men more often suffer from high blood pressure and heart and vascular diseases.
It’s clearer than ever from this year’s report that we need to take the social and mental impact that psoriasis has on female patients far more seriously. If we are to protect female patients from a life of mental hardship, consultations need to give space, and time, to discuss the subjective impact that psoriasis has on overall well-being.
Investing in happiness for people with psoriasis can help millions of lives
This year’s study undeniably shows that psoriasis is so much more than an autoimmune condition, but that it contributes to the growing problem of life-threatening non-communicable diseases, whilst having a huge economic impact on societies across the world.
Though psoriasis in itself is a non-communicable disease (NCD), having psoriasis may strongly increase someone’s risk of developing other NCDs. This in turn takes toll on the quality of life, and raises costs for the healthcare systems. If we are to make a progress on NCDs prevention and control, psoriasis should therefore be a top priority consideration.
What’s more clear than ever in this year’s report is that health is so more than just the absence of physical hardship. It’s the sum of many parts and, when any one of those parts is off-kilter, the cascading effect on overall health and wellbeing can be catastrophic for patients.
It’s time to start reflecting more on how psoriasis causes people to experience their lives – outside of the immediate condition – and thereby truly reflect on how healthy they are likely to be, both now and in the future.
It’s only by investing in happiness in this way that we can truly begin to change the way we help those 125 million people around the world who, right now, are lost in the shadows. In doing so, we will not only support improved health and happiness for millions, but also save billions of dollars in loss productivity.
PsoHappy explores how psoriasis affects happiness and well-being. Make your voice heard by taking our surveys about different aspects of living with psoriasis