Long-term physical conditions and mental health

Our physical and mental health are inextricably linked and people who live with a long-term physical condition - such as diabetes, arthritis or asthma - are also likely to experience mental ill-health, such as depression and anxiety.

Long-term conditions can't be cured, only managed, and they come with a risk of social isolation, low self-esteem, stigma and discrimination. This can easily give way to a mental health condition if support isn't available.

Mental and Physical Health in the UK

More than 15 million people - 30 percent of the UK population - live with one or more long-term conditions according to the Department of Health (2011) and more than 4 million also have a mental health problem. Evidence demonstrates those with a long-term condition are two or three times more likely to develop mental ill-health. People two or more long-term conditions are seven times more likely to experience depression than those without a long-term condition (World Health Survey, 2007)

Since the founding of the NHS in 1948, physical care and mental health care have largely been disconnected. There is an increasing call on healthcare professionals to consider psychological wellbeing when treating the physical symptoms of a condition and vice versa.

What we believe and what we're doing

Living with both physical and mental ill-health is incredibly damaging to people's lives. It can be much harder to manage a physical condition if you're also coping with depression. Your physical and mental health is inextricably linked and we think that they should be treated equally.

We're calling for:

  • an increased understanding of the links between physical health and mental health, and that improved mental health reduces the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases
  • mental health to become an integral part of public health agenda, nationally and locally, and for proper investment in public mental health
  • regular physical health checks and accessible physical health care for people with severe mental illness
  • routine assessment of the psychological needs of patients suffering from chronic heart disease and other serious physical conditions
  • a reduction in the inappropriate use of primary and acute hospital services by people with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) by referrals to evidence-based psychological treatments.

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