Considering the role that diet and exercise play in mental health, it may be shocking that a new study has found that health care providers generally fail to provide dietary and exercise advice to patients with mental illness and diabetes. Published in the journal Diabetes Educator, a University of Illinois study found that more than half of the patients with symptoms of mental illness and nearly one-third of those with diabetes failed to receive appropriate wellness education from their physicians.
For the study, the researchers used data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Medical Expenditure Panel Survey which is a nationally representative sample of participants’ use of medical services over a period of two years. The minority of the test group, consisting of participants ranging in age from 18 to 70 years old, suffered from symptoms of diabetes or psychological distress, with 16 percent being diabetic and eight percent experiencing symptoms of mental distress.
As expected, the investigators found symptoms that led to metabolic syndrome and diabetes to be more prevalent in those with mental issues. For instance, more than 70 percent of those with psychological distress had body mass indexes above 25 (compared with almost 65 percent in the diabetes group), carrying significantly higher rates of hypertension as well, with 42.1 percent and 25.6 percent in the mental health and diabetes group, respectively.
Unsurprisingly, other conditions related to metabolic syndrome saw the same trend, with hyperlipidemia (being present in 42 percent of mental health patients, versus 30.6 percent in diabetics) and cardiovascular disease being observed in 29.7 percent and 14.7 percent of the test group, respectively. However, those with symptoms of psychological distress who had not been diagnosed with diabetes at the time of the study had more than three times the amount of diabetes risk factors as compared to their counterparts (who had an average of nearly three risk factors).
“Given the elevated risk for diabetes among individuals with symptoms of psychological distress, even greater numbers of clinicians in the study sample should have been providing lifestyle counseling. However, the increase in the rates of diabetes and diabetes risk factors seems to have outpaced the increase in the rates of provider advice for this population. It is important that providers counsel people in this population as early as possible about exercise and nutritional changes to reduce the risks associated with diabetes,” said Xiaoling Xiang, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Illinois.
Perhaps the most surprising results of all, the authors found that over 10 percent of patients with no diabetes risk factors claimed to have received no dietary advice from their doctors whatsoever. However, more than 65 percent of people with five or more risk factors had received some form of lifestyle or nutritional counseling, suggesting that dietary advice is hard to come by unless one is already subjected to risk factors and has developed symptoms.
Due to the co-occurrence of diabetes and mental health, the authors felt that physicians could help provide diet and exercise information to both patients with mental illnesses and diabetes.
Sovereign Health understands the crucial role that wellness advice plays in the prevention and treatment of psychological issues, utilizing physical activity and nutrition in our therapeutic techniques, such as hiking, equine therapy and vitamin-based detox techniques such as NAD rapid detox.
For more information about Sovereign’s treatment of addiction, dual diagnosis and mental health disorders or our treatment locations throughout the continental U.S., feel free to contact us today at 866-754-3385.
Written by Chase Beckwith, Sovereign Health Group writer