Health is an emotional state of mind and body where infirmity and disease are absent. It is the combination of all the values we have for ourselves, our family and society that create a person’s health: how they feel, how they look, how their emotions are expressed and how they interact with others. This is the key to achieving a happy existence.
This is the reason that the discussion about defining health has become a popular topic in all aspects of the medical and scientific communities from the academic to the research and clinical communities. The debate started when health was defined in the Mental Health Professional’s Association International Relation. It was argued that there are different concepts of health, especially as it relates to the person’s well-being. The association agreed to change the definition to “a reasonable standard of overall good health”.
In Canada, we have two national health databases that we use to monitor the well-being of Canadian families. The first is the Canadian Community Health Study (CCS) which is a project of the Canadian Family Therapy Association (CFTA). The second is the Canadian Mortality Database, which is a project of the Canadian Social Information Program (CIS). Both of these databases are designed to track changes over time and to compare mental health in Canada with that of the United States and other countries.
The argument brought forth against keeping both mental health and physical health records separate was that physical health is needed to prevent chronic diseases while mental illnesses can be treated. They also pointed out that there is a difference between having a physical illness and functioning with a mental illness. They claimed that there is no correlation between having a physical illness and the well-being or mental health. There are exceptions, such as when a person experiences trauma, but this is considered to be a mental illness.
The study compared mental illness in six developed countries and six others from the same countries that did not have developed countries. It found that people with a mental illness were more likely to have poor health outcomes and to die earlier than people without a mental illness. The results were consistent between the six countries. The results were similar when looking at physical illness. The researchers suggested that people who experience stress or higher levels of adversity are at greater risk for both illness categories.
There are limitations of the study. The researchers did not separate people with physical illness from those without it. Also, the research focused on those in the United States, a very large country that has a large population that shares much of its healthcare costs. It is impossible to draw a conclusion about what would happen if everyone in the United States had the same healthcare as Canadians. As of now, we can only conclude that people who have physical illness are at greater risk for both mental illness and death due to poor health outcomes. This is a good example of why it is important to address both types of illness.