How does Mental Health affect Physical Health?

by Jessane Castro

Many studies have shown that Mental Health and Physical health go hand in hand. Much of what affects the mental state of a person can also influence amongst other factors; their lifestyle, energy levels and their vulnerability to certain physical or musculoskeletal conditions.

The Canadian Institute for Health reports that: “Canadians who report symptoms of depression also report experiencing three times as many chronic physical conditions as the general population.” Vice Versa: “Canadians with chronic physical conditions have twice the likelihood of also experiencing a mood or anxiety disorder when compared to those without a chronic physical condition.” 2 In a health report published by Statistics Canada, they found that people with serious mental illnesses would also experience higher rates of many other health concerns such as heart disease, due to high blood pressure and elevated levels of stress hormones, diabetes, obesity and chronic pain. 3 It also reports that, in Canada, “[…] women with depression were 80 percent more likely to experience heart disease than women without depression.”3

There are many reasons as to how and why both can influence each other negatively. For example, people that experience mental illnesses will often experience symptoms of depression, decreased energy levels and sensitivity. It can also influence people’s social and cognitive function which can negatively impact their health and well-being.

People may lack the motivation to take care of themselves which results in unhealthy eating and sleeping habits, smoking or abuse of substances, as a consequence or response to their symptoms. On the other hand, living with chronic pain, (E.g. low back pain), can take a toll on the level of emotional stress, which affects the person’s mood, thinking and behavior. People will find it difficult to participate in social activities or hobbies when they feel pain or discomfort. These factors impede negatively in their lifestyle which in return increases their pain levels, dampen the overall mood and contributes to worse health outcomes. Moreover, the frustration of dealing with chronic pain can result in depression, anxiety and will cause people to isolate themselves from social supports. According to Statistics Canada, chronic pain, such as low back pain, is a major health concern : “[…] in Canada and other industrialized nations. It has been estimated that between 70% and 85% of the population will have a back problem of some kind in their lifetime, and […] those that develop into a chronic condition can have serious […] psychological consequences ”.4

If we take into account that 11 million Canadians over the age of 12 have experienced physical disorders and that this number is projected to grow
to 15 million by 2031, it is, therefore, imperative to address this issue. 5

A great tool that can be used to help prevent, self-manage and recover from chronic conditions is Virtual Physical Therapy. By using an exercise-based approach people can greatly improve their general health, mood, aches and pain which positively impacts people’s mental health. Virtual sessions are readily available to ease this process and allow people to improve their general well-being from the comfort of their homes. If you are experiencing pain, you can book a virtual physiotherapy session below.

References:
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), The Relationship between Mental Health, Mental Illness and Chronic Physical Conditions, https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/the-relationship-between-mental-health-mental-illness-and-chronic-physical-conditions”

Canadian Institute for Health Information, A Framework for Health Outcomes Analysis: Diabetes and Depression Case Studies (Ottawa: CIHI, 2008).

H. Johansen, “Living with Heart Disease – The Working-Age Population,” Health Reports, 10, no. 4 (Spring 1999): 33-45, Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 82-003, www.statcan.gc.ca. Government of Canada, The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada (Catalogue No. HP5-19/2006E, 2006).

Claudio E. PÈrez, Chronic back problems among workers. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2000001/article/5301-eng.pdf

Canadian Orthopedic Care Strategy Group. Backgrounder Report: Building a Collective Policy Agenda for Musculoskeletal Health and Mobility. 2010; http://www.cihr-irsc. gc.ca/e/48830.html