Health Depends on Mental Health
Untreated Mental Disorders Up Risk of Disease, Injury, and Death
Sept. 4, 2007 -- Untreated mental disorders vastly increase the world's
burden of disease, injury, and early death.
The finding comes from Martin Prince, MD, director of the Center for Public
Mental Health at King's College London, and colleagues. The study is the first
in The Lancet Global Mental Health Series.
Prince and colleagues note that the World Health Organization estimates that
about 14% of the world's disease burden is directly linked to psychiatric and
neurological disorders. But they find that mental disorders have a far greater
impact than this.
In a review of recent studies of the impact of mental health on overall
health, the researchers find that mental illness is not separate from physical
illness. Instead, there are many complex interactions between mental disorders
and other diseases.
Their report was published in the Sept. 4 online edition of The
"Mental disorders are risk factors for the development of communicable
and noncommunicable diseases, and contribute to accidental and nonaccidental
injuries," Prince and colleagues write.
Poor mental health is linked to health risks such as smoking, inactivity,
and bad diet. It increases a person's risk of heart disease and stroke, the
researchers note. It also limits a person's ability to avoid or get proper
treatment for infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.
It increases a person's chances of injury -- and is behind the vast majority of
suicides, they explain.
Prince and colleagues estimate that improved mental health treatment could
have major impacts on other areas of health. For example, they suggest that
better treatment of maternal depression would prevent up to 20% of infant
stunting. And they suggest that 15% of suicides could be averted by treatment
of major depression.
"We need to act immediately on the existing robust evidence that
treatment of [co-existing] mental disorder is highly effective for improvement
of mental health and quality of life outcomes across a wide range of disorders
including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS," Prince and