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The Link Between Our Physical and Mental Health

By Anna Smiley and Carrollyn Ferderber

This month we will be discussing the links between physical health and mental health. We know that many people struggle with both mental and physical health challenges, and we want to shed light on the intersection between the two. It is difficult to have one without the other, as both are tied so closely together. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that “there is no health without mental health”” (Connection Between Mental and Physical Health, 2021). This article will hopefully clarify the link between mental and physical health, and then offer some support to those struggling with one or both. 

All of our research shows that those who suffer from mental illness have higher rates of physical health challenges, and vice versa: those who suffer from physical health challenges also are likely to struggle with mental health challenges. The CDC states, “depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness” (CDC, 2021).  Preventable physical health problems that are caused by mental health issues could be due to several factors including genetics, lack of motivation, difficulty planning and concentrating, lack of support, and being less likely to receive medical support. Sometimes physical health problems cause symptoms of mental illness as well (Mental Health Foundation, 2021). Struggling physically can cause feelings of frustration, loneliness, and hopelessness.

Like a spiral, declining physical health and declining mental health can impinge on each other, which can feel devastating for an individual. For example, “poor diabetes control may worsen depression,” which can worsen diabetes control, states the authors of one article (Fenton et al., 2006). This cyclical pattern can be broken, however. In this example, the authors recommended a combination of “cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and SSRIs are effective for the treatment of depression in diabetes” (Fenton et al., 2006). To stop this cycle from occurring, the authors of a separate article recommended that “depression screening and systematic depression treatment should become routine components of diabetes care” (Simon et al., 2007). This screening and systematic mental health treatment can provide hope and peace for those struggling with a physical condition, regardless of whether it’s diabetes or not. 

The link between mental health and physical health can be very costly. People with severe mental health challenges are more likely to have higher hospital expenditures than people without mental health issues due to co-occurring physical health challenges. In fact, individuals with severe mental health challenges “spent approximately 3.3 times higher healthcare expenditures than those without mental illness” (Lee et al., 2015). In order to not incur such high hospital costs, go to your provider early and try some of the interventions listed below. 

Although experiencing mental or physical health challenges can be painful and lonely, there are ways to prevent the negative effects that they may cause; there is hope! Some ways to achieve relief from these challenges include getting active, eating healthy, drinking plenty of fluids, getting enough sleep, and stopping unhealthy habits like smoking (Mayo Clinic Care Network, 2018). All of these and other interventions are efficient ways to mitigate the negative effects of physical and mental health problems.

Works Cited:

CDC. (2021, June 28). About Mental Health. CDC.Gov. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm

Fenton, W. S., & Stover, E. S. (2006). Mood disorders: cardiovascular and diabetes comorbidity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 19(4), 421–427. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.yco.0000228765.33356.9f

Connection Between Mental and Physical Health. (2021). Canadian Mental Health Association. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/connection-between-mental-and-physical-health/

Lee, S., Rothbard, A., & Choi, S. (2015). Effects of comorbid health conditions on healthcare expenditures among people with severe mental illness. Journal of Mental Health, 25(4), 291–296. https://doi.org/10.3109/09638237.2015.1101420

Mayo Clinic Care Network. (2018, November 6). The Mind-Body Connection: Better Physical Health, Better Mental Health. Stormont Vail Health. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://www.stormontvail.org/common-health-conditions/the-impact-of-mental-health-disorders-on-our-community/the-mind-body-connection-better-physical-health-better-mental-health/

Mental Health Foundation. (2021, July 20). Physical health and mental health. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/physical-health-and-mental-health

Simon, G. E., Katon, W. J., Lin, E. H. B., Rutter, C., Manning, W. G., von Korff, M., Ciechanowski, P., Ludman, E. J., & Young, B. A. (2007). Cost-effectiveness of Systematic Depression Treatment Among People With Diabetes Mellitus. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64(1), 65. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.64.1.65

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