Mental problems may strongly linked to chronic physical diseases

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In a new study, researchers found that poor mental health earlier in life leads to poor physical health in later life.

They examined 50 years of births in New Zealand and followed them for 30 years.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Auckland and elsewhere.

In the study, the team assessed hospitalizations for mental health conditions, chronic physical health conditions and mortality over a 30-year period from 1988 to 2018.

Mental health conditions diagnosed in inpatient hospitals affected 4% of the population and included substance use disorder, psychotic disorder, mood disorder, neurotic disorder, self-harm and other disorders.

Chronic physical conditions diagnosed in inpatient hospitals, which affected 20% of the population, included gout, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), traumatic brain injury, stroke, heart attack, coronary heart disease and cancer.

The cohort was 2,349,897 people born in New Zealand between 1928 and 1978 and aged from 10 to 60 at the start of the period.

The team found that people admitted to the hospital for a mental health issue had an increased risk of mortality within the 30-year period, regardless of whether they had also been in the hospital for their physical health.

The results were the same for men and women across the age range.

Further, a mental health hospitalization increased the risk of a later admission for physical health, independent of previous hospital visits for physical health.

The results suggest that dealing with mental health disorders early may help prevent later disease.

A further study from the team will examine the role of mental health in later dementia.

One author of the study is Associate Professor Barry Milne.

The study is published in JAMA Network Open.

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