According to the World Health Organisation, health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Sadly, many people focus solely on their physical health, often forgetting about or completely ignoring their mental health. What people don’t realise is that their mental health can greatly impact their physical health and vice-versa. A lot of people have already spoken about how exercise can release endorphins, which make an individual feel happier and can help their mental health. But what about the reverse? Let’s take a look at how poor mental health can negatively affect an individual’s physical health.
1. Heart Disease
A study was conducted by King’s College in London to understand the link between mental illnesses and cardiovascular diseases. As part of the study, the data of 3.2 million individuals living with severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia was analysed. The study was able to conclude that these individuals had a 53% higher risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease as opposed to individuals who did not have any mental illness. The study also found that individuals living with mental illness had an 85% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases as opposed to individuals of a similar age in the general population.
2. Cancer Mortality
Researchers from the University College London discovered a link between high levels of mental distress and an increased cancer mortality rate. The study took place over 14 years, from 1994 to 2008, and a total of 163,363 men and women were studied. The entire study was based on observations, so it isn’t possible to prove anything with certainty. But the researchers have concluded that individuals who suffered from depression and anxiety were more likely to die from leukaemia, bowel cancer, prostate cancer, and pancreatic and oesophageal cancer than their peers who did not suffer from psychological distress.
The link between depression and diabetes is said to be bidirectional. This means that if an individual has one disease, their chance of developing the other increases exponentially. We can understand this better with an example. Let’s say a person has depression. They are unable to get out of bed or move around. They are likely to lead a sedentary lifestyle and eat more sugary foods in an attempt to feel good. This will likely increase their risk of developing diabetes. On the other hand, an individual who has diabetes may end up facing burn out from trying to manage the disease, which could lead to them developing depression.
The link between an individual’s mental and physical health simply cannot be denied. While there is a lot of information available that stresses the importance of maintaining physical health, it’s equally important for people to look after their mental health. As we can clearly see, if they ignore one, it’s likely to impact the other.