Beyond the mind: The surprising link between mental and physical health

Picture by Emma Bauso/pexels

Picture by Emma Bauso/pexels

Published Jun 13, 2023


Mental health disorders can be linked to other disorders, such as substance abuse, chronic illnesses, and physical disabilities.

Studies have shown that individuals with mental health disorders are more likely to experience difficulties with physical health than the general population.

Mental health disorders can lead to poor self-care and neglect of physical health needs. For example, individuals with depression may neglect their hygiene and have unhealthy eating patterns, leading to physical health problems such as obesity and heart disease.

Additionally, individuals who experience high levels of stress or anxiety may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking or alcohol use, leading to physical health problems such as lung cancer, liver disease, and cirrhosis.

All of these factors reinforce the need for a comprehensive approach to mental and physical health to tackle the issue before complications arise.

Individuals with mental health conditions are more likely to die from smoking-related illnesses such as heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than from their mental health condition.

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that 36% of adults with a mental illness smoke cigarettes, compared to only 21% of adults without a mental illness. Additionally, individuals with mental health conditions tend to smoke more heavily and have a harder time quitting than those without mental health conditions.

Furthermore, research shows tobacco use can exacerbate symptoms of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that quitting smoking can lead to improvements in mental health, including reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Healthcare providers and organisations need to prioritise tobacco cessation efforts among individuals with mental health or substance use challenges. By addressing tobacco use, we can improve overall health outcomes and reduce the disparities in health between individuals with and without mental health conditions.

The intersection of tobacco use and behavioural health warrants greater attention because smoking, the leading cause of disease and death in the US, is twice as prevalent among individuals with mental health or substance use challenges than the general population.

The National Behavioral Health Network for Tobacco and Cancer Control, a project of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, is making a new push to support organisations in going tobacco-free, including providing them with technical assistance to help them make the journey.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is the leading cause of early death of individuals with a mental health or substance use challenge.

Research and data have shown that the intersection of tobacco use and mental health is a severe concern that must be urgently addressed. In the US, smoking remains a significant cause of disease and death. Shockingly, the rate of smoking among individuals with mental health or substance use challenges is double that of the general population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that smoking leads to early death for individuals battling mental health or substance use challenges. Tobacco use is associated with increased health risks in such individuals, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies, emphasising the need for effective tobacco cessation interventions.

Raising awareness of the risks of tobacco use among people with mental health disorders is an important first step towards initiating change.

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