Depression may slow healing of mouth sores

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The healing of wounds in the mouth and on other mucous membranes appears to be slowed in people with a depressed mood, according to a report in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Mounting evidence suggests that psychosocial stress can delay wound healing, but the studies have literature almost exclusively pertained to skin wound healing, Dr. Phillip T. Marucha, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues point out.

To see if psychological factors affect the healing of mucosal tissues, which is a process markedly different from skin healing, the researchers recruited 193 undergraduate students with high or low scores on standard tests for depression.

The participants (who were compensated $360) received a small circular wound on the roof of the mouth, under local anesthesia. Daily videographs of the wound were used to monitor healing. Ultimately, 183 subjects were included in the study.

Healing of the mouth wound typically took around 7 days. However, depressed subjects were nearly four times more likely than their non-depressed peers to take longer than 7 days to health the wound.

Feelings of loneliness, by contrast, did not seem to affect wound healing, the report indicates.

Based on past research, the researchers explain that a depressed mood most likely increases the body’s inflammatory activity, which, in turn, leads to impaired wound healing.

SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine, September 2007.