Physical health and mental health comorbidities

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter in textbook/reference book


For every one person with a mental illness who dies of suicide, 10 die prematurely due to avoidable physical health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer or respiratory disease People living with mental illness can lead healthy productive lives. However, on average, people living with mental illness die between 50 and 59 years of age. While living with mental illness doubles the risk of early death, living with a mental illness in a rural community triples the risk of early avoidable death. Eighty percent of people with a mental illness also have a mortality-related physical health condition. In Australia, the need to urgently address this issue is reflected in that is has become a priority in the Fifth National Mental Health Plan and the launch of the Equally Well National Consensus Statement.
The reasons for this poor health and early death are complex and interrelated. However, they include poor access to services, stigma and discrimination, smoking, lifestyle factors, experience of trauma and the side effects of medication. People living in rural Australia have a higher burden of disease, higher rates of comorbidities and much lower access to services. For people with mental illness living in rural Australia the risk of early death is three times that of their capital city counterparts. The challenge of addressing these disparities is compounded by geographical distances and a shortage of allied health and general and specialist medical and screening services.
This chapter reviews the evidence on effective interventions and proposes a series of actions and clinical practises for consumers, carers and rural mental health workers. It provides examples of effective interventions in rural settings. It also outlines actions rural clinicians can take to help address this national scandal, across the domains of screening and intervention, holistic person-centred care, early intervention, integrated care, and advocacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of rural and remote mental health
EditorsTimothy Carey, Gullifer Judith, Louise Roufeil
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

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    Roberts, R. (Accepted/In press). Physical health and mental health comorbidities. In T. Carey, G. Judith, & L. Roufeil (Eds.), Handbook of rural and remote mental health Springer.