Chronic Disease & Well-being

Growing amounts of research and the support of large public health organizations such as the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and many others have spurred forward a movement to address chronic disease and mental health through coordinated efforts. Research has shown strong links between chronic disease and specific mental health issues such as depression. Evidence also indicates that chronic disease can affect mental health, as persons with chronic disease may experience increased stress and anxiety, impacting their positive mental health. In an editorial from the American Journal of Public health, Geraldine Perry, outlines several connections between chronic disease and mental health, focusing on idea that poor mental health impacts the occurrence, treatment, and outcomes of chronic disease

Connections between mental health and chronic disease:

  • Positive mental health is associated with improved health outcomes
  • Mental illness is associated with risk factors for chronic disease such as smoking and physical inactivity
  • Depression can inhibit adherence to treatment regimens for chronic disease
  • Chronic disease can increase stress and anxiety in patients, contributing to poor mental health
  • Adverse Child Experiences (ACEs) and trauma. As an adult, traumatic experiences and ACEs can lead to risky health behaviors such as smoking and unhealthy eating, which could lead to chronic disease.
  • Psychiatric treatments may also induce weight gain in patients

Bridging the promotion of mental health and the prevention of chronic disease is an important step to improve the outcomes and incidence of chronic disease and mental health. Addressing mental health using population level approaches that address social determinants such as inequalities in housing, education, and food access, and using approaches that address ACEs and trauma, could address both chronic disease and mental health.  An integrated approach at the population level leads to a prevention effort focusing on the entire body, not simply physical health.