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Examining the connection between mental and physical health

Previous research has shown depression can be harmful to your heart. Now a new report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers additional insights into how depression, as well as other mental illnesses, can affect physical health.

Researchers' findings (.pdf) suggest that adults with mental illnesses are more likely to experience higher rates of chronic physical conditions including high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, these individuals have higher rates of emergency-department use and hospitalization. MedPage Today reports:

After adjustment for age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, marital status, current employment status, and county type/metropolitan status, respondents who reported having any mental illness were more likely to have the following conditions compared with those who reported no mental illness:

  • High blood pressure (21.9% versus 18.8%)
  • Diabetes (7.9% versus 6.6%)
  • Asthma (15.7% versus 10.6%)
  • Heart disease (5.9% versus 4.2%)
  • Stroke (2.3% versus 0.9%)


Those with any mental illness, serious mental illness, or a major depressive episode also had greater use of healthcare resources. Among those with any mental illness, for example, the rate of emergency department use was 38.8% (versus 27.1% for those who reported no mental illness) and the rate of hospitalization was 15.1% (versus 10.1%).

The findings were based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health collected in 2008 and 2009. In their conclusion, researchers said:

These results suggest a greater need for screening for and treating these physical conditions among persons with mental illnesses; screening for and treating mental illnesses among persons with these physical conditions; and promoting programs that integrate mental health screening, intervention, and treatment with primary care or primary care into specialty mental health care. This may help provide optimal care outcomes for adults with co-occurring conditions.

Previously: Study offers insights into how depression may harm the heart and Stanford study shows depression symptoms may predict breast cancer survival
Photo by Michael Clesle

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