Four million Australians suffer from mental health conditions including depression and anxiety. This includes our family, friends, and co-workers.
The Australian Health Policy Collaboration released a new report today that found these four million. Australians are more at risk for chronic disease and early death.
A mental health condition can increase your risk for every major chronic disease. People with anxiety or depression are more likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure and arthritis.
More than 2.5 million people suffer from at least one of the two conditions.
This report, which is the first to quantify the problem in Australia, was released today. People with mental health issues are more likely than others to suffer. From a circulatory disease (that is, stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease). This increases by 52% in men and 41% in women.
Disease And Mental Illness
A combination of a circulatory disease and mental illness affects more than one million people. These diseases are Australia’s leading killers.
The numbers for painful and debilitating conditions like arthritis or back pain are higher. With 959,000 people affected, arthritis is 66% more common for men who have mental health issues than for women.
Men with mental health issues are 74% more likely to experience back pain. While women with more than one million sufferers are 68% more likely.
These gender differences are important. The chances of developing asthma in women with mental health conditions is 70% higher than for women overall in Australia, while asthma in men with mental health conditions is 49% lower.
Cancer is the most significant difference between men and women. Cancer is 84% more common in men with mental health issues than in the general population. For women, it is 20%.
Mental And Physical Health
Women are 23% more likely than men to have both mental and physical health issues.
According to the report, having a chronic mental illness and a chronic physical condition can lead to worse quality of living, functional decline, higher healthcare costs, and more frequent visits to the doctor.
These people need more care, take more medication, and spend more time, energy, and money on their health. People suffering from a mental illness are more likely not to work, to be less healthy, to have less access to health screenings, and to receive poorer care for their physical ailments.
People with mental health issues die on average earlier than the rest of the population. This is mostly due to preventable causes. Research has shown that people suffering from severe illness die earlier than the general population. Our research shows that even common illnesses like depression and anxiety can lead to chronic diseases leading to earlier death.
It is not clear why people with illness have poorer physical health. According to the Academy of Medical Sciences, poor mental health can lead to physical disease. Psychosocial risk factors like feeling unhappy with your life, feeling stressed, feeling uneasy about work, financial worries, and sleep problems can all be indicators of poor mental health.
Poor mental and physical health can also be caused by other factors such as poor socioeconomic status, low social networks, rural living, and smoking.
It is well-known that people suffering from illness are less likely than others to be given advice on healthy living and receive fewer tests for diseases. This can be due to discrimination and stigma, or it could simply be neglect. People with mental illness can slip through the cracks between their disjointed and physical health systems.
What Can We Do To Stop It?
With dozens of organizations signing up for the Equally Well consensus statement, there is momentum for positive change in the health sector. This initiative aims to improve quality of life for people with Illnesses by providing equal access quality health care.
There is a lot of great work happening all over the country, including in Hunter, where people suffering from mental illness can get tailored help for their physical health risks, such as diet and smoking.
Patients who use health services need to have their physical health checked regularly and any issues addressed promptly. A better coordination of care will help to preserve healthcare resources, and increase quality of life.