When a person is experiencing emotional or mental distress, meeting with a counselor often is helpful. If the problem is physical in nature, however, a physician typically is recommended. But that does not mean that these challenges are always completely unrelated. Although the mind and the body often are viewed as separate entities, when it comes to counseling, it is important to recognize the relationship between the two in order to maximize a patient’s well-being.
The effect of mental health on longevity
One of the clearest places that the link between mental and physical health is illustrated is in longevity. Many studies have found that those with mental health challenges, such as schizophrenia or even depression, tend to live shorter lives when compared to those who do not have these conditions. In fact, the Mental Health Foundation reported that schizophrenia is associated with a tripled risk of dying from a respiratory disease and a doubled risk of dying from a form of heart disease. Depression has been linked to a 50 percent increase in a person’s risk of dying from cancer and a 67 percent increase from heart disease. These conditions have a significant impact on life expectancies.
Researchers hypothesize that one reason for the increase in respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer risk is that individuals with mental health conditions are less likely to seek care for their physical health. The Mental Health Foundation reported that those who take part in mental health services are statistically less likely to receive many routine checks, such as weight, cholesterol and blood pressure, that could identify health concerns early on. Unhealthy habits, including smoking, drug use and a lack of exercise, also can play a role, according to an article from U.S. News and World Report.
However, there are other ways that mental health can affect longevity. Researchers are finding that a person’s sense of optimism also has an impact.