How does mental health affect physical health?

We sometimes see physical and mental health as separate but your body and mind are very connected. Being healthy in your body can affect your mind. And being healthy in your mind will help you to be physically healthy. The opposite is also true – if your physical or mental health is poor it can have an effect on all of you. These are some of the ways that your physical health can affect your mental health, as well as the other way around.

Physical and mental health

  • Mental health and physical disease. There are a number of diseases that have been linked to depression, including cancer, heart disease, asthma and arthritis. Someone who has schizophrenia might have more of a risk of heart and lung diseases. Poor mental health can also mean you suffer from sleep problems. Without sleep our bodies can’t heal and this can make it much harder to manage an illness.
  • Physical disease and mental health problems. It may be that problems with physical health lead to mental health challenges. For example, the skin condition psoriasis gives you painful, red patches on your skin. Research has found that it can also lead to a feeling of distress and anxiety, as well as depression. Having an illness like cancer also has an increased risk of anxiety and depression, as well as low mood and losing interest in doing the things you used to enjoy.

How to make sure you take care of both physical and mental health

  • Be active. Activity will help you to feel fitter and stronger – as well as happier too. This doesn’t need to be very hard exercise. Even a 10 minute walk a day can help.
  • Feed your body and mind. The food that we eat has an impact on how we feel physically and emotionally. More fruit and vegetables and less sugar and processed food is a good shift to make.
  • Alcohol, drugs and smoking don’t help. Whether you are looking at physical or mental health, drinking too much, taking drugs and smoking will all have a negative effect. It can make a big difference to how you feel to limit these or cut them out.
  • Sleep well. Most of us need seven to nine hours of sleep every night to feel good and function well. If you’re not getting this you might want to look at your evening habits. For example, turn your phone off an hour before you go to bed.
  • Make mental health a priority. For example, learn how to relax and deal with your stress differently. Get into the habit of asking for help when you need it. Create positive mental health practices to support you.

Mental health affects physical health in many different ways. As it’s not possible to disconnect our mental health from our physical health it’s important to make sure that we are looking after both. From cutting out what might make this hard to doing more of the things that make it easier, there are simple steps you can take today to make a difference.