Date Published: 
Monday, 16 June, 2014

Iron deficiency without anaemia is associated with anger, fatigue and tension in young Japanese women, study finds

Professor Jorge Toblli

A significant association has been found between iron status and psychological distress in young Japanese women, according to a new article. The results highlight an increased risk of anger, fatigue and tension in women with iron deficiency without anaemia (IDNA). The authors suggest that IDNA may be a risk factor for mental health problems in this patient group.

Iron deficiency without anaemia (IDNA) frequently affects women of reproductive age. This study aimed to determine the relationship between IDNA and mental health and somatic symptoms.

A total of 76 young women (aged 18–22) were classified as having either IDNA (haemoglobin ≥12 g/dL and serum ferritin <20 ng/mL; n=29), iron deficiency anaemia (haemoglobin <12 g/dL and serum ferritin <20 ng/mL; n=10), or a normal iron status (haemoglobin ≥12 g/dL and serum ferritin ≥20 ng/mL; n=36). Mental health and somatic symptoms were assessed according to the Cornell Medical Index Health Questionnaire (CMI). Other factors, including food and drink intake, were also evaluated.

Mental health symptoms (CMI, sections M–R) were found to be significantly higher in the IDNA subjects compared with the normal subjects (Means: 12.5 ± 9.3 vs 8.1 ± 8.3, respectively; p<0.05). No significant difference in CMI scores was found between the group with normal iron status compared with iron deficiency anaemia. Fatigue, anger, tension and neurotic tendencies were significantly higher in the IDNA subjects compared with normal subjects.

In this study Sawada and colleagues explore the peculiar and important issue of iron deficiency without anaemia. The article provides interesting information regarding a link between pure iron deficiency and mental health in a female population. Although the sample studied was small, the take-home message is that physicians should consider searching for iron deficiency in young women exhibiting psychological distress.

The overall findings suggest that IDNA may be a risk factor for anger, fatigue and tension in young Japanese women. Interventional studies are necessary to confirm these findings and to assess the potential efficacy of iron therapy in promoting psychological well being in women with IDNA.

The full article is available online ahead of print in Biological Trace Element Research. For information on how iron deficiency affects gynaecologic and obstetrics patients, please click here.