The relationship between atopic dermatitis (AD) and psychological distress has been well established for children and adolescents. However, it is unclear whether this relationship exists in young adults. This study aimed to assess the relationship between AD and psychological distress in young male adults in South Korea. A cross-sectional study was conducted using regional conscription data from 2008 to 2012. A dermatologist diagnosed AD based on historical and clinical features, and determined severity using the eczema area and severity index. A psychiatrist used medical records, an interview, and a psychological test to examine psychological distress (depression, anxiety, and somatization). The relationship between psychological distress and AD was assessed by multivariate logistic regression analyses. Among the 120,508 conscripts, 1517 (1.2%) presented with AD. The odds of having each type of psychological distress were significantly greater for individuals with AD compared with those without AD. The adjusted odds ratios for depression, anxiety, and somatization were 1.79 (95% CI 1.40-2.29), 1.38 (95% CI 1.08-1.76), and 1.75 (95% CI 1.40-2.20), respectively. Moderate-to-severe AD was significantly related to depression and somatization to a greater extent compared with mild AD. Depression, anxiety, and somatization are strongly and independently associated with AD in young adult males. Early treatment of skin inflammation might modify the risk of psychiatric problems. Prospective cohort studies are needed to verify causal relationships.
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