Understanding the Relationship Between Mental Health Conditions
Health is an emotional state of mind and physical well-being where infirmity and disease are absent. Various definitions have been employed for different purposes throughout the history of man. In modern times, the definition has become more of a philosophy that highlights the interdependence of mind, body and spirit in maintaining health. This interdependence is often referred to as the four S’s: self-respect, self-confidence, social support and habit.
The state of health has multiple implications on the individual level and can contribute positively or negatively to motivation, well-being and personal relationships. The degree to which stress impacts a person’s health varies greatly; the degree to which mental illness impacts one’s health is also impacted by the individual’s level of stress. There are a number of symptoms that may indicate mental illness, some of which are as follows:
Anxiety and depression are often closely associated with the development of stress, and research has indicated that individuals that suffer from stress are more likely to be involved in serious illnesses including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and HIV/AIDS. Societal and environmental factors such as poverty, hunger, lack of education, powerlessness, lack of social networks and physical violence are all potential risk factors for both depression and anxiety disorders. Stress is believed to be a contributing factor in the development of cardiovascular diseases, which include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and breast cancer. Similarly, stress is a contributing factor in the development of digestive diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and Crohn’s disease. It has also been determined that stress increases the risk of developing a high blood pressure and may be a cause of atherosclerosis, a condition in which hardening of the arteries occurs mainly in the Framingham Offspring, Massachusetts, family of patients with cardiovascular disease.
The quality of life of individuals who are coping with multiple personal health issues and who are physically active has been positively influenced by participation in exercise programs. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, and many forms of cancer. In addition, studies have indicated that daily aerobic activity has been positively associated with decreased rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders and other physical illnesses, while positively affecting the functioning of the immune system.
It is known that physical activity is strongly associated with reduced risks of age-related decline in cognitive functions, including memory loss and decreased attention span. It is believed that the benefits of exercise on mental health are partially due to the reduction in stress levels associated with participation in physical activities. However, a number of studies have indicated that the reduction in physical activity may be due to the ability of Americans to find time to exercise, rather than a lack of time available. Among developed countries, the United States has the highest rate of sedentary lifestyles, which makes physical activity less likely to be an important part of the average person’s lifestyle. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, sedentary lifestyles are directly related to a number of health problems, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain forms of cancer.
According to the British Medical Journal, “In most parts of the world, well-being is now seen to be interlinked and intertwined with other factors such as health and diet, psychology and sociology, work and home life style, and work-related policies.” In the United States, well-being has been seen to strongly correlate with measures of occupational health, socioeconomic status, work intensity, and socioeconomic resources. Societal globalization and economic changes over the past two decades have also been strongly associated with the development of mental health conditions, as well as poor social support and less physical activity. As research continues to advance the understanding of the relationship between mental health and physical health, research and policy efforts can further be directed towards bettering the lives of all Americans.