Hypermobile Joints Linked with Heightened Risk for Depression, Anxiety in Adolescents


The study also found that joint hypermobility was more common in females than in males.

New research published in BMJ Open has found that young people with joint hypermobility were more likely to have depression and anxiety, and that psychiatric symptoms were more severe among hypermobile study participants.

“Previous studies in adults have shown that you are more likely to suffer from anxiety if you have hypermobility, and that the daily toll of painful symptoms can lead to depression,” said Neha Issar-Brown, PhD, director of Research and Health Intelligence at Versus Arthritis, in a press release. “[This] research helps identify who is at risk at a young age, which will enable better, earlier, more targeted treatments to help young people live well with hypermobility, and prevent or reduce the impact of the condition later in life.”

Although joint hypermobility is associated with anxiety disorders in adults, this association has not been previously explored in a large sample of children or adolescents.

“Hypermobility affects 1 in 4 people in the UK,” Issar-Brown said in the press release. “Like other musculoskeletal conditions, it can have a profound and far-reaching impact on life, causing daily pain, fatigue, and often disrupted sleep.”

Joint hypermobility is caused by a genetic difference in connective tissue, according to the study. Because connective tissue is present everywhere in the body, it also influences the fight-or-flight nervous system. When this system works differently, mental health problems can be more likely to develop.

“Many psychiatric problems, including depression and anxiety, start before the age of 25,” said lead author Jessica Eccles, PhD, MA, MSc, MRCPsych, in a press release. “It is therefore important to identify the factors that may increase the risk for these disorders. Being aware of the link between hypermobility and depression and anxiety means that we can work on developing appropriate and effective treatments.”

The investigators used an existing database from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which collected data from more than 14,000 children and their parents or caregivers. Participants were assessed for joint hypermobility at both 14 and 18 years of age, and for depression and anxiety at age 18. The team then used statistical tests to assess the link between joint hypermobility with depression and anxiety.

In addition to establishing a connection, the study found that joint hypermobility was more common in females than in males. However, it was only among males that joint hypermobility at age 14 increased the risk for depression at age 18.

“This study has highlighted the need for more targeted and bespoke support for hypermobile teenagers, particularly girls,” said Lea Milligan, CEO of MQ Mental Health Research, in the press release. “The findings don’t just show the need for support for this group of individuals, but also demonstrate the importance of research that takes a whole mind, body, brain approach to health and uses longitudinal studies to improve our understanding of which demographics are at higher risk of depression and anxiety.”


Having hypermobile joints can increase the risk for depression and anxiety in adolescents. News release. EurekAlert; December 1, 2022. Accessed December 13, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/973055

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