A new study led by The University of Western Australia has shown that poor mental health may be behind an increase in chronic disease in Australia.
The study showed strong connections between poor mental health and health behavior.
Strong psychological stress could cause unhealthy lifestyle behavior in men.
Previously, scientists have found that poor mental health is related to having poor lifestyle habits.
In the present study, the researchers aimed to see whether a causal link from mental health to health behavior existed.
They examined data from the nationally representative Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Australia Survey between the years 2007 and 2013.
They focused on how a person’s Kessler 10 score impacts the likelihood of a person having a poor diet or unhealthy lifestyle.
Kessler 10 score is a measure of one’s psychological distress.
The researchers found many unhealthy habits, such as smoking, binge drinking, poor diet and lack of exercise, are direct results of psychological distress, particularly in men.
These unhealthy lifestyle habits contribute to many chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The team suggests that their findings confirmed that strong connections exist between poor mental health and unhealthy lifestyle habits for men and women.
Moreover, the results show that poor mental health actually causes someone to develop poor health habits mainly in men.
For women, causal relations are less clear.
The researchers suggest policies should encourage people to exercise regularly, quit smoking, drink less alcohol and eat a healthy diet.
This can be an effective method of reducing the burden of chronic disease.
The study lead author is Dan Hoang, who completed the study at UWA’s School of Population and Global Health. Co-author is Dr. Ian Li.
The research is published in Social Science & Medicine.
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Further reading: Social Science & Medicine.