People who experience a physical health problem, from cancer to back pain, are three times more likely to seek mental healthcare than patients who report having no physical ailment, according to a new study by Oregon State University (OSU) researchers.
The study indicates that there is a need for better-coordinated care between physical and mental health providers. This is the first study that statistically shows a major link between physical health and mental health.
Jangho Yoon, a health policy economist with OSU who specializes in mental health issues, states that this is a way to benchmark data so that policy makers can determine how to best transition to a system that will coordinate physical and mental care.
Yoon goes on to say that the "The Affordable Care Act is supposed to have better coordinated care and interplay between physical and mental health providers, so this has really important implications because before our study, baseline data didn't exist."
The research data used for Yoon’s study was from the 2004 and 2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys which helped to identify more than 6,000 adults for this study. He only used people who had not reported a previous physical or mental health condition. Compared to those who did not have a physical health problem, people who developed a physical health condition had a threefold increase in the likelihood of seeking mental healthcare.
The interplay between our physical and mental health has long been suspected. When I have back pain, I feel stressed. And if it impacts my ability to work, or to do my usual activities, then I can feel upset or even a bit depressed. But no large scale studies existed that showed the statistical proof of his correlation.
Yoon states that the study also found that those patients who said they perceived their health issue as severe were more likely to seek mental health services.
Researchers state that a simple screener survey, such as a 16-question Substance Abuse/Mental Illness Screener, used in a busy clinical setting, could be an effective tool to help health providers obtain proper mental health treatment for their patients.
Yoon claims that there is a chance of cost savings in our medical system if we can identify potential mental health problems early, before they become more severe. And more importantly, coordinated care and early intervention leads to better health outcomes, and better care for the patient.
Is it normal practice for you to refer all of your oncology patients to counseling or psychiatric services?