It is clear that mental disorders in treatment settings are associated with a higher incidence of chronic physical conditions, but whether this is true of mental disorders in the community, and how generalized (across a range of physical health outcomes) these associations are, is less clear. This information has important implications for mental health care and the primary prevention of chronic physical disease.
To investigate associations of 16 temporally prior DSM-IV mental disorders with the subsequent onset or diagnosis of 10 chronic physical conditions.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Eighteen face-to-face, cross-sectional household surveys of community-dwelling adults were conducted in 17 countries (47 609 individuals; 2 032 942 person-years) from January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2011. The Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to retrospectively assess the lifetime prevalence and age at onset of DSM-IV–identified mental disorders. Data analysis was performed from January 3, 2012, to September 30, 2015.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Lifetime history of physical conditions was ascertained via self-report of physician’s diagnosis and year of onset or diagnosis. Survival analyses estimated the associations of temporally prior first onset of mental disorders with subsequent onset or diagnosis of physical conditions.
Most associations between 16 mental disorders and subsequent onset or diagnosis of 10 physical conditions were statistically significant, with odds ratios (ORs) (95% CIs) ranging from 1.2 (1.0-1.5) to 3.6 (2.0-6.6). The associations were attenuated after adjustment for mental disorder comorbidity, but mood, anxiety, substance use, and impulse control disorders remained significantly associated with onset of between 7 and all 10 of the physical conditions (ORs [95% CIs] from 1.2 [1.1-1.3] to 2.0 [1.4-2.8]). An increasing number of mental disorders experienced over the life course was significantly associated with increasing odds of onset or diagnosis of all 10 types of physical conditions, with ORs (95% CIs) for 1 mental disorder ranging from 1.3 (1.1-1.6) to 1.8 (1.4-2.2) and ORs (95% CIs) for 5 or more mental disorders ranging from 1.9 (1.4-2.7) to 4.0 (2.5-6.5). In population-attributable risk estimates, specific mental disorders were associated with 1.5% to 13.3% of physical condition onsets.
Conclusions and Relevance
These findings suggest that mental disorders of all kinds are associated with an increased risk of onset of a wide range of chronic physical conditions. Current efforts to improve the physical health of individuals with mental disorders may be too narrowly focused on the small group with the most severe mental disorders. Interventions aimed at the primary prevention of chronic physical diseases should optimally be integrated into treatment of all mental disorders in primary and secondary care from early in the disorder course.