Original Investigation
February 2016

Association of Mental Disorders With Subsequent Chronic Physical ConditionsWorld Mental Health Surveys From 17 Countries

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  • 2College of Medicine, Al-Qadisiya University, Diwania Governorate, Iraq
  • 3Hospital del Mar Research Institute, Par de Salut Mar, Barcelona, Spain
  • 4Pompeu Fabra University, and Centro de Investigación Biomedica en Red en Epidemiología y Salud Pública, Barcelona, Spain
  • 5Universitair Psychiatrisch Centrum–Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Campus Gasthuisberg, Gasthuisberg, Belgium
  • 6Chronic Diseases Research Center and Department of Mental Health, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 7National School of Public Health, Management and Professional Development, Bucharest, Romania
  • 8St John of God Clinical Research Centre, and IRCCS Centro S. Giovanni di Dio Fatebenefratelli, Brescia, Italy
  • 9Shenzhen Institute of Mental Health & Shenzhen Kanging Hospital, Shenzhen, China
  • 10University of Groningen, University Medical Center, Groningen Department of Psychiatry, Interdisciplinary Center, Psychopathology and Emotion Regulation, Groningen, the Netherlands
  • 11Department of Mental Health, School of Public Health, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
  • 12National Institute of Psychiatry Ramón de la Fuente, Mexico City, Mexico
  • 13Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, Warsaw, Poland
  • 14Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacio Medica–Murcia, Subdirección General de Salud Mental y Asistencia Psiquiátrica, Servicio Murciano de Salud, El Palmar, Murcia, Spain
  • 15School of Psychology, University of Ulster, Ulster, Northern Ireland
  • 16National Institute of Health, Lima, Peru
  • 17Universidad El Bosque, Bogota, Colombia
  • 18Center for Excellence on Research in Mental Health Medellin, Colombia
  • 19Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard University Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(2):150-158. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2688

Importance  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.

Objective  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.

Results  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.