One in ten Australians have both a mental and physical health condition: Report

Doug Hendrie

9/08/2018 3:22:22 PM

People with chronic physical conditions such as asthma, arthritis, cancer and diabetes are at much higher risk of developing mental health conditions, a new report has found.

Incoming RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care (REC–QC) Chair Associate Professor Mark Morgan.
Incoming RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care (REC–QC) Chair Associate Professor Mark Morgan.

Around 2.5 million Australians – one in ten people – have both a mental and physical health condition.

The Australia’s Mental and Physical Health Tracker report from the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) is the first Australian study to quantify the risks of physical health conditions contributing to a wide range of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.
Incoming RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care (REC–QC) Chair Associate Professor Mark Morgan was a report author.
He told newsGP that the health system had for too long considered mental illness separate from physical.
‘[Seminal English doctor] Sir William Harvey drew the connection between heart health and mental health more than 350 years ago – so this is not exactly new,’ he said.
‘Every GP knows these two are deeply interwoven. We need to put a halt to the artificial divide between mind and body.’
Professor Morgan said GPs should, however, be aware of the strong links between the two.
‘There needs to be a system approach to looking for mental health conditions in people with chronic physical conditions, especially in painful conditions such as arthritis, and a system approach looking for physical risk factors for those with chronic mental illness.’
He said that coronary heart disease was much more common in people with depression, while people suffering a coronary event were much more likely to be depressed in the year afterwards.
‘These are big effects. It’s not just lifestyle and medications – there are biological effects causing this. The autonomic nervous system and inflammatory cytokines, for instance. Quite often, GPs are not aware of the biological connections.’
AHPC director Rosemary Calder said the figures were staggering.
‘[T]he data shows that with either a physical or mental health condition, you are much more likely to also have the other,’ she said.

AHPC advisory board member Professor Allan Fels said the poor physical health and wellbeing of those with mental illness, and vice versa, was the ‘major weak point’ of Australia’s generally good health system.
‘[H]aving a mental health problem increases the risk of every single major chronic disease,’ Professor Fels said.
The report found that more than a million Australians are living with a mental health condition and a circulatory disease such as hypertension or heart failure.
Strong gender variations were also present, with women with mental health conditions 70% more likely to report having asthma, while their male equivalents were 49% more likely.
Men with a mental health condition were 82% more likely to report having cancer, while women were only 20% more likely.
Overall, women were 23% more likely to have both a mental and physical condition.

chronic disease chronic health mental health physical health

Login to comment