Acne depression in adults greater than teens

If you thought it was only teens that struggled with the psychological impact of acne, think again.

A review of 42 studies has reinforced the link between acne and depression but to the surprise of many, including the study’s authors, this link is significantly stronger for adults than adolescents.

The meta-analysis included studies for both depression and anxiety in acne, finding both were more prevalent in adults (those aged 20 years and older) than adolescents (those aged 12-19 years).  However, the depression link was much greater in adults.

Dermatologist and All About Acne member, Dr Philip Tong said this review has identified that age is not a factor in protecting people from the psychological effects of acne.

“Appearance is important to most people throughout life. We typically like to look our best whether we’re 14 or 40 so we shouldn’t be surprised when adults are struggling with acne,” he explained.

“This is particularly relevant when we are seeing a global rise in adult acne,” added Dr Tong.

There is a belief that acne only affects teens with the review finding this may be one of the reasons adults with acne experience a higher prevalence of depression and anxiety than adolescents. Having this ‘teen skin condition’ can make adults feel out of step with their pimple-free peers.

“I see how distressing and frustrating it is for my patients in their 30s and 40s to be dealing with acne.  They expect to have careers, partners and families, not acne!” Dr Tong said. 

The authors suggest that under-treatment of acne is a risk for psychological issues and recommend it should be treated aggressively using appropriate options, including isotretinoin.

“We’re often asked when should people see a doctor for acne.  Acne is a medical condition, so any time is the right time to see a doctor.  However if acne is affecting your enjoyment of life, regardless of your age, it’s critical to see a doctor ASAP.  They can help with acne and your mood,” said Dr Tong.

If you or someone you know needs help contact:

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14

Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800

Reference:  Samuels DV, Rosenthal R, Lin R, Chaudhari S, Natsuaki MN, Acne vulgaris and risk of depression and anxiety: A meta-analytic review, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2020)

The All About Acne team – the authors of this site – are a group of medically-trained skin experts from across Australia who have an interest in acne management. Our experienced team of leading dermatologists guarantees the information on this website is independent and based on the highest quality research available.

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up to the All About Acne newsletter for the latest news, research, and articles direct to your inbox!

All About Acne is an evidence-based website approved by the Federal Government organisation

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up to the All About Acne newsletter for the latest news, research, and articles direct to your inbox!