People who experience physical health problems are three times more likely to seek mental health services than those who have no physical ailments, according to a new study from Oregon State University (OSU).
Using data from more than 6,000 people without prior physical or mental health conditions from 2004 and 2005 medical expenditure panel surveys, researchers found that people who developed physical health conditions ranging from back pain to diabetes were more likely to seek mental healthcare. Results were the same for those who developed severe medical conditions, such as cancer, stroke and heart attack, and those patients who perceived their health issues as severe.
The correlation between physical and mental health has long been suspected, researchers say, but this is the first nationally representative study that statistically shows a major link between physical and mental health. “When I have back pain, I feel stressed. And if it impacts my ability to work, or to do my usual activities, then I can feel upset or even a bit depressed. But no large scale studies existed that showed the statistical proof of this correlation,” says lead study author Jangho Yoon, a health policy economist with OSU.
Study results show the need for better-coordinated care between physical and mental health providers. A simple screener survey like the 16-question Substance Abuse/Mental Illness Screener (SAMISS), used in a busy clinical setting, could be an effective tool to help health providers attain proper mental health treatment for their patients.
Researchers stress that identifying potential mental health problems early ultimately leads to better health outcomes, improved cost savings, and better patient care.
Source: Oregon State University, July 17, 2012
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