Did You Know that April 7 was World Health Day?
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Posted by: Karen Hardin
Written by: Keshia Wagers, MA
Did you know April 7th was World Health Day? World Health Day is an awareness day that is recognized globally under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Although, for many, this awareness day may spark thought about physical health and wellness, it is important to also consider the importance of mental health, as well as the social, environmental, and economic conditions that play a role in health and wellness.
Particularly in the U.S., physical and mental health are often treated separately, however, it is clear that physical health has an impact on mental health and vice versa. It should come as no surprise that certain physical health conditions would be associated with increased rates of anxiety and depression, especially when considering not only the physical symptoms that may be associated, but also the lengthy doctor visits and expensive fees that often result. What may be less understood is how mental health impacts physical health.
In a recently published study, researchers found that anxiety and depression were strongly related to poor physical health outcomes. After examining data from over 15,000 adults, anxiety and depression were found to be associated with increased risk for most physical health markers. Individuals with anxiety and depression were at higher risk for heart conditions, stroke, high blood pressure, and arthritis than those without. In addition, those with anxiety and depression were also related to less severe, but still significant, symptoms including headaches, stomachaches, back pain, and muscle pain.
Although only a brief overview of the relations between mental and physical health, this makes clear the importance of including both physical and mental aspects when considering your overall health.
Some ways to take care of your mental and physical health include:
- Exercise. Research has shown that exercise can improve mood and self-esteem, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Think about taking a quick walk outside, as research also suggests being outside can have positive benefits on mental health.
- Avoid food that negatively impact physical and mental health. Caffeine, alcohol, and overly sugary foods have all been found to have both a negative impact on mood and physical feelings.
- Get plenty of sleep. Try setting up a nighttime routine to calm the mind and body.
- Try meditation. Meditation can occur in many different forms and now even phone apps exist to guide you in the process, such as headspace and insight timer.
- If you think a physical health issue might be impacting a mental health issue, or vice versa, bring it up with your doctor or therapist.
- Niles, A. N., & O'Donovan, A. (2019). Comparing anxiety and depression to obesity and smoking as predictors of major medical illnesses and somatic symptoms. Health Psychology, 38(2), 172.
- Ohrnberger, J., Fichera, E., & Sutton, M. (2017). The relationship between physical and mental health: a mediation analysis. Social Science & Medicine, 195, 42-49.
- Scott, K. M., Bruffaerts, R., Tsang, A., Ormel, J., Alonso, J., Angermeyer, M. C., ... & Gasquet, I. (2007). Depression–anxiety relationships with chronic physical conditions: results from the World Mental Health Surveys. Journal of Affective Disorders, 103(1-3), 113-120.
- World Health Organization (2019, April). WHO constitution. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/about/who-we-are/constitution.