The stakes are high for the nation’s well-being. The Obesity Action Coalition estimates nearly 93 million Americans suffer from obesity, and that number is expected to reach 120 million within the next five years. The concern, and the related risk of Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes, is even greater for people who live with mental illnesses.
The relationship between obesity and heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer is well known.
However, health care professionals not only point to mental illness as another outcome of obesity, but an underlying cause of the disease as well. A 2010 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry identified the correlation between depression and the onset of obesity, as well as obesity and the onset of depression. Studies show obesity can also result from depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders.
Mental illness and obesity are correlated, and that relationship should be as well understood as the one between obesity and physical disease.
During my time with the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors I analyzed data and death certificates in Massachusetts. I uncovered an alarming trend: Persons with severe mental illness (SMI) are at significantly high risk of early mortality. They die as much as 25 years earlier than those without SMI from a range of conditions that can be exacerbated by their obesity.