Mind-Body Link Exposed: Unraveling the Physical Costs of Mental Disorders

Mental Physical Health Link Art Concept

A comprehensive study by Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Cambridge found that psychiatric patients are significantly more likely to suffer from multiple physical health conditions, emphasizing the need for integrated mental and physical healthcare.

Psychiatric patients almost twice as likely to have multiple physical ailments – new study.

A new study, conducted by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in collaboration with the University of Cambridge’s Biomedical Research Centre, has revealed significant findings about the physical health of psychiatric patients. This extensive analysis incorporated data from 19 different studies, involving 194,123 psychiatric patients globally, and compared them to 7,660,590 individuals in control groups.

Findings on Multimorbidity

Multimorbidity is when a person is affected by any combination of chronic disease with at least one other physical health condition. The researchers found that psychiatric patients were 1.84 times more likely to report multimorbidity than the control group.

The study found that people with severe mental health issues also report physical conditions including metabolic diseases, hypertension, epilepsy, respiratory, vascular, kidney, and gastrointestinal diseases, as well as cancer.

Global Mental Health Concerns

As of 2019, nearly one billion people were living with a mental disorder, making it a leading cause of disability worldwide. According to Mind, one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.

Previous research has found that a large percentage of individuals in need of mental health services lack access to effective, affordable, and quality mental healthcare, especially in low-income countries. For instance, 71% of individuals with psychosis worldwide do not receive necessary mental health services, with a vast disparity between high-income and low-income countries.

Expert Insights

Lead author Lee Smith, Professor of Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “Mental health underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships, and shape the world we live in. It is evident from our research that individuals with severe mental illness are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing physical multimorbidity.

“This complex relationship between severe mental illness and physical multimorbidity has far-reaching implications, including decreased treatment compliance, increased risk of treatment failure, increased treatment costs, relapsing disease, worsening prognosis, and reduced life expectancy.

“Poor clinical management of physical comorbidities in people with mental disorders exacerbates the issue, leading to an increased burden on individuals, their communities, and healthcare systems. A holistic approach is urgently needed to improve the physical, mental, and social outcomes of individuals dealing with severe mental illness and physical multimorbidity.”

Reference: “Relationship between severe mental illness and physical multimorbidity: a meta-analysis and call for action” by Damiano Pizzol, Mike Trott, Laurie Butler, Yvonne Barnett, Tamsin Ford, Sharon AS Neufeld, Anya Ragnhildstveit, Christopher N Parris, Benjamin R Underwood, Guillermo Felipe López Sánchez, Matt Fossey, Carol Brayne, Emilio Fernandez-Egea, Guillaume Fond, Laurent Boyer, Jae Il Shin, Shahina Pardhan and Lee Smith, 1 October 2023, BMJ Ment Health.
DOI: 10.1136/bmjment-2023-300870

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