Health is a condition of mental, physical and emotional well-being where infirmity and disease are absent. In general health implies the total quality of the diet, lifestyle, and community support that an individual receives. Mental health is associated with the ability to cope with health problems and self-image. This is important for those with mental health issues because it allows them to maintain appropriate relationships, work productively, and participate fully in everyday life.
The relationship between the two is even more pronounced because mental health and physical illness often co-occur and they often require the same kind of resources to address the problem. Illness may lead to severe restrictions in the individual’s functioning capabilities. When this happens, the person loses the ability to function on many levels. They may have difficulty in relationships and employment, develop problems with memory, concentration and other physical processes, or in performing ordinary tasks. Mental illness can also lead to reliance on medications and other types of therapies to manage symptoms and provide symptom relief.
One of the major theories on how the two interrelate is that poor health results from poor socioeconomic status and environmental factors. Poor health is associated with a number of negative health consequences including disability, mortality, economic insecurity, social isolation, premature death, substance abuse and nutritional deficiencies. Mental illness is often associated with substance abuse and depression. There is an increasing body of evidence that links psychological disorders to environmental factors such as stress, exposure to physical violence, and low social support networks. Researchers have found that people who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other psychiatric conditions are at higher risk of developing multiple illnesses than those without these conditions. Researchers believe that these illnesses are the result of faulty biological systems that function in concert with external forces that can create changes in the environment.
The link between environmental factors and the association of mental illness is most apparent in individuals who are unemployed or have only part-time work and those who are unemployed or have part-time work but who live in environments that are characterized by social isolation and high levels of unemployment. As well, the study finds that individuals who are overweight and obese are at greater risk of developing a range of health conditions as well as the likelihood of developing a psychiatric illness. The research indicates that this is due to the fact that unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles are associated with negative physical health outcomes, such as increased fat mass, increased blood pressure, and reduced activity levels, which are associated with poorer well-being. The findings suggest that these negative outcomes may be exacerbated by unemployment and poor economic status, which are associated with both poor health and mental illness.
While people receive different treatment based on their individual needs, they do not receive the same level of care when they endure long-term illnesses. In some cases, people receive treatment for conditions that do not have clear prognosis and for which there are effective treatments, while in other cases people receive little to no treatment for conditions that do have promising signs of improvement and who would likely be helped by such treatments. These individuals may also experience stigma when seeking employment or moving into communities that do not promote a healthy lifestyle.
Health and wellness programs can help address health care disparities by encouraging healthier lifestyles and adopting better eating habits. Programs that address the social and economic factors that lead to poor health outcomes should be evaluated as well. These programs can be designed to address the unique needs of people who are economically and/or medically disadvantaged. They should also address issues that lead to health disparities across different aspects of life, such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, and socio-economic status. A holistic approach that takes into account the effects of race, ethnicity, gender, age and socio-economic status will be most successful in ensuring that the resources that are needed are utilized effectively to benefit all individuals.