The link between physical and mental health

I’m known as the ‘health and happiness’ expert and one of the reasons those two quite different concepts fit together in this description of my work is the deep interconnection between our levels of happiness and our health. And it occurs in both directions.

So, for example, exercise, which is obviously good for cardiovascular health and the musculoskeletal system also has significant effects on our happiness levels.

Equally, studies have consistently shown that those who are happier have increased longevity and reduced the incidence of a wide range of diseases. (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797620919673) 

The disconnect between physical and mental health

Although the research is very clear about the strong linkage between our well-being and our health the medical systems of the world, and especially the westernised ones, have yet to catch up with this important information.

Parity of esteem

In the video below I talk about the difference in how mental and physical health issues are treated. If you attend a hospital in the UK with a fractured ankle, you will, quite rightly, be treated immediately. Attend with depression, anxiety or OCD and although you may receive some drugs to keep you as stable as possible, you will be unlikely to get the care you need for 3- 6 months. In a recent report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, patients with severe mental illness – including eating disorders, bipolar disorder and PTSD – waited up to two years for treatment (https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/news-and-features/). Those with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts waited up to four years for treatment. This is because the funding for, and the sense of urgency with dealing with, mental and physical health issues is not equal. This lack of equality is called lack of ‘ Parity of Esteem’.

Causes of lack of parity of esteem

There are a number of causes of this imbalance. One is the result of the ‘stigma’ of mental health issues. This is where issues of ignorance or discrimination can prevent access to treatment or result in a reluctance of the patient to consult health care professionals. Another important issue is the tendency for mental health problems being less likely to be diagnosed than physical health issues. Both these factors result in less treatment for those will mental health issues.

In the video I also look at why it is so important for us to look after and value our mental health, as well as our physical health.

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