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Sleep Apnea and Mental Health Care

Sleep Health; ePub 2017 May 26; Kaufmann, et al

There is an increased risk of psychopathology, including suicidal ideation, among individuals with sleep apnea, a recent study found. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) examined the association between sleep apnea and psychopathology and mental health service utilization in a US nationally-representative sample. Data on 264,653 individuals who participated in the 2008-2014 waves of the NSDUH were used, of which 5,498 (3.3%) reported having sleep apnea within the past year. Participants were categorized as having depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and serious psychological distress within the past year. Among the findings:

  • Compared with those without sleep apnea, individuals reporting sleep apnea within the past year had:
    • 3.11 times increased odds of having depression.
    • 2.75 times increased odds of suicidal ideation.
    • 3.68 times increased odds of anxiety.
    • 2.88 times increased odds of severe psychological distress, after controlling for confounders.
  • Individuals with sleep apnea were substantially more likely to report unmet need for mental health care, despite reporting greater mental health service use.


Kaufmann CN, Susukida R, Depp CA. Sleep apnea, psychopathology, and mental health care. [Published online ahead of print May 26, 2017]. Sleep Health. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2017.04.003.


Sleep apnea has many deleterious consequences. We are familiar with the association of sleep apnea and hypertension, coronary disease, and congestive heart failure.1 There may also be an association between sleep apnea and the development of diabetes.2 This study shows that patients with OSA have a substantially higher prevalence of mental health disorders. For patients with OSA, it makes sense to screen for depression and anxiety, and for overweight and obese patients with mental health disorders, it certainly makes sense to think of OSA. —Neil Skolnik, MD

  1. Shamsuzzaman ASM, Gersh BJ, Somers VK. Obstructive sleep apnea. Implications for cardiac and vascular disease. JAMA. 2003;290:1906-1914. doi:10.1001/jama.290.14.1906.
  2. Boyer S. Obstructive sleep apnea: Its relevance in the care of diabetic patients. Clinical Diabetes. 2002;20(3):126-132. doi:10.2337/diaclin.20.3.126.

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