More attention needed for mental health links to prevent chronic conditions: Rob Knowles

Australian Health Policy Collaboration chairman Rob Knowles
Australian Health Policy Collaboration chairman Rob Knowles

AUSTRALIAN Health Policy Collaboration chairman Rob Knowles said a new national report card says there needs to be greater focus on risk factors of preventable chronic disease for Australians with mental health conditions.

A new AHPC national report card has confirmed, for the first time, a strong correlation between poor mental health and chronic physical conditions.

“Australian data show that the gap in life expectancy for people living with severe mental illness is approximately 10 – 15 years, and more than three quarters of the excess mortality comes from physical health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer,” said Mr Knowles, who leads the Victorian University think tank behind the report.

“Many of these early deaths are preventable.”

Figures from the report show:

  • 1.075 million Australians are living with a mental health condition and a circulatory disease such as heart failure or hypertension – Australia’s biggest killer.
  • 321,400 Australians are living with diabetes and a mental health condition. 
  • Almost 960,000 Australians have arthritis and a mental health condition.

The report also highlights the large gender variations:

  • Males with mental health conditions are 49 per cent more likely to report having asthma, females 70.3 per cent more likely.
  • Males with mental health conditions are 82 per cent  more likely to report having cancer; and females 20 per cent more likely.
  • Females are 23 per cent more likely to have a co-existing physical and mental health condition than males.
Australian Health Policy Collaboration's Australia Mental and Physical Health Tracker

Australian Health Policy Collaboration's Australia Mental and Physical Health Tracker