Exploring the Links Between Lifestyle, Medication, Exercise, Obesity, and Mental Health
Research suggests that people with mental illnesses have bad physical health. This leads to a lower life expectancy in comparison to the general population. Unfortunately, there is not much research that explores the link between mental health and weight. Neither does it explore its consequent effect on a person’s self-esteem or confidence. Research in mental health patients’ ability to improve their overall health is also lacking. However, here are a few reasons which could cause weight gain in people with severe mental health issues.
Barriers in Health Improvement
Mental health patients report that their health condition stems from psychiatric medication, lack of support, and financial instability. Besides this, the stigma around mental health is also a barrier to improving their overall health. These many elements have an interlink. This only further complicates the actual link between weight gain and mental health conditions.
Besides these factors, chronic stress and anxiety, depression, and lack of other coping mechanisms cause people with mental illness to overeat as they tend to use food as a coping mechanism. The issues of depression, anxiety, and stress lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, which, combined with overeating, is a recipe for obesity.
Also, depression and anxiety affect a person’s sleep. They can lead to disordered sleep patterns, resulting in weight gain from a slow metabolism and an increase in appetite. Weight gain and obesity are majorly significant contributors to reduced life expectancy in those suffering from mental health problems.
Research findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that around 43% of adults with depression were obese. Besides this, women suffering from depression were likely to be obese than men or women without depression. Adults using anti-depressant medication also have a higher risk of obesity than those not on medication.
The study did not suggest a causative relationship between the medication and the weight gain. According to the research, there is a bidirectional relationship between the two. This means that it proposes that obesity increases the risk of depression, and depression in turn increases obesity.
Diet and Mental Health
Lifestyle changes lead to considerable improvements not only in physical health but also in mental health. A study on over 13,000 adults, found that obesity and alcohol consumption have links to low mental well-being. Another study shows that diets high in legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts cereals, grains, and fish led to lower levels of depression.
Poor nutrition is, unfortunately, a very complex issue. It relates to lower levels of education, lower-income, and cultural influences on the diet. It could also be due to the lack of availability of healthy food. The reasoning behind healthy eating and its link to mental health is unclear. However, the evidence suggests that healthier eating increases certain species of healthy gut bacteria, which produces neurotransmitters that improve mental health. So, it is important to make sure people with mental health issues have a healthy diet.
Exercise and Mental Health
Exercise is also closely linked to better mental health. Any activity that increases the heart rate, like swimming, running, cycling, or brisk walking, is exercise. Daily activities can constitute exercise. Regular physical activity raises self-esteem and confidence and mental alertness.
It reduces stress and anxiety as it triggers the production of endorphins. Frequent exercise also improves sleep. Thus, exercise is a critical element in managing obesity in patients with mental health disorders, as much as it is in helping healthy individuals maintain good health.
Overall, mental health treatments have to consider both the mental and physical health in tandem as we can see, many links exist between lifestyle, medication, and mental illness and obesity and reduced life expectancy. With so many interlinking elements, the issue is rather complex.
Still, it deserves more research and guidance for mental health patients to enjoy healthier lives and longer life expectancy. Thus, in the future, we hope to see more studies in this space. Understanding all the elements that influence the lives of those with mental illness helps improve their overall health. This will help patients with mental health embrace a healthy life by making the right diet and lifestyle choices. And it is important because the right lifestyle will help them cope with their mental illness in a better way too.
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