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YOUNG people who experience severe Crohn’s and colitis symptoms are more likely to experience poor mental health, and need extra support, says a new study.

A team led by Professor Pam Qualter, from the University of Manchester, and Professor Bernie Carter, from Edge Hill University, asked 130 young people who suffer from one of the diseases of the bowel about their feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, friendship quality, and embarrassment.

They found that experiencing more severe symptoms, such as stomach pain, was related to developing mental health problems.

Their research shows that an unpredictable bout of disease activity – such as a flare – causes anxiety and embarrassment about symptoms like pain, belly noises, incontinence and/or need to rush to the toilet. This leads to not wanting to take part in social activities and this can lead to loneliness and poor mental health.

Prof Carter said: “Our findings shine a light on aspects of Crohn’s and Colitis that are of importance to young people, but which may be overlooked in clinic visits.

“Typically, consultations do not address young people’s feelings, mental health, or the challenges that these conditions can create for sustaining friendships and connectedness. While the focus on physical symptoms is important, our study reveals the importance of creating opportunities for talking about well-being and mental health.”

Prof Qualter added: “It is important that patients have opportunities to discuss their mental health within their usual clinics.”

The team’s next steps include developing information sheets for parents of adolescents and young adults with Crohn’s or colitis.