When the Mind is ill, the Body Follows

Mental health problems contribute to poor physical health

(RxWiki News) Good physical health is easier to maintain when mental and emotional health are in good shape. Improving the quality of life means treating both the body and the mind.

Researchers find data that shows chronic physical illness rates are higher in patients with mental health disorders. Treating the physical illness may not be enough to help patients get the care they need.

"Talk to a doctor about sustainable healthcare options."

A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and stroke rates are higher in adult patients also diagnosed with mental illness. The report claims to have "found a strong relationship between physical and mental health."

According to the data, 21.9% of adults also diagnosed with some form of mental illness have high blood pressure, whereas only 18.3% of adults without mental illness have high blood pressure; with asthma it’s 15.7% vs. 10.6% respectively.

Specifically with adults experiencing a major depressive episode 24.1% of patients had high blood pressure vs. 19.8% of patients without mental illness; asthma was 17% vs. 11.4%, with diabetes 8.9% vs. 7.1%, heart disease 6.5% vs. 4.6%, and stroke was 2.5% vs. 1.1%.

With major depressive episodes in particular this data does provoke the question: did the depressive episode contribute to the physical condition or did the physical condition contribute to the depressive episode?

A depressive episode is considered to be a state of depression that lasts at least two weeks and seriously disrupts day-to-day things like sleep, appetite, and feelings of self-worth.

The highest percentage difference between patients with mental illness and those without come from emergency room attendance: 47.6% vs. 30.5% and hospitalization rates: 20.4% vs. 11.6%.

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde says, “Promoting health and wellness for individuals, families and communities means treating behavioral health needs with the same commitment and vigor as any other physical health condition. Communities, families, and individuals cannot achieve health without addressing behavioral health.”

SAMHSA funds the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration (PBHCI) program. They work with people with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders to improve their physical health status. Their efforts intend to raise the quality of life and curb higher health costs and disability for persons with co-occurring physical and mental health problems.

This report was published April 5, 2012 on the SAMHSA website based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). SAMHSA is a public health agency in the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Review Date: 
April 10, 2012