DG Writer Jasmine Kluge considers the recent findings that show mental health can affect how long you live.
A recent study has revealed that people who have symptoms of anxiety and depression have a lower life expectancy than people who present no symptoms.
Unlike other research, that the media can use to sensationalise correlations out of context, this study used a large sample size intended to represent the population and took place over ten years.
As part of the study, 68,000 participants aged 35 or older took a standard depression and anxiety questionnaire. What's more interesting is that even people with mild symptoms, people who hadn't ever sought treatment, also had a lower life expectancy than those who presented no symptoms at all.
You may assume this is because of lifestyle choices people with mental health problems are more likely to engage in, but senior author of the study, Dr David Batty explains: "These associations also remained after we did our best to take into account other factors such as weight, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption and diabetes. Therefore, this increased mortality is not simply due to people with higher levels of psychological distress having poorer health behaviours."
This comprehensive piece of research indicates that there is a relationship between mental health issues and biological problems. It encourages further investigation into the area to understand this connection.
But it also has a very valid message that any mental health issues no matter how minor can still have a significant impact. It's important that as a society we learn to give mental health conditions the same attention that we give our physical health and seek support and help even for minor aliments.
Profound emotional distress can be crippling but a more minor symptom can be tolerated and accepted as just part of a busy life.
We need to learn to recognise that persistent feelings of stress, unhappiness and anxiety are not the norm and need to be addressed. We need to change the reluctance that many people have to seek support regarding their mental health and learn to want more for ourselves. It is not all about tablets and lying on a couch.
The reality of counselling in the NHS is about changing the way you think, challenging the assumptions you have that shape your life and facilitating your understanding of your issues. Sometimes it takes another person to give true perspective and unconditional support, it's all confidential and lasts usually six sessions. Some people find it helpful just to offload to another person even if it is just a friend.
Opening up to someone is the first step to healing, achieving a better quality of life and avoiding the health implications that this study eludes to.
It's a very valid piece of research with a startling conclusion that should shock people into taking steps to alter their own outcome. If not for themselves then for the people they care about who want them to live a long and happy life.
Written by Jasmine Kluge