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Men with mental illness are 82% more likely to have cancer

A new report released today from Victoria University is the first Australian study to quantify the risks of physical health conditions contributing to a wide range of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.

Australia's Mental and Physical Health Tracker from the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) at Victoria University has found that millions of Australians living with common health issues such as asthma, hypertension, arthritis, cancer and diabetes are at much greater risk of mental health conditions.

AHPC Advisory Board member Professor Allan Fels AO said that the poor physical health and wellbeing of those with mental illness, and vice versa, was the "major weak point" of Australia's generally good health system.

"With more than four million Australians living with a mental health condition, we need to do much more to prevent diseases like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and asthma compounding the effects of mental health," Professor Fels said. "The numbers are staggering."

Around 2.5 million people have both a mental and physical health condition and the data shows that with either a physical or mental health condition, you are much more likely to also have the other.

"We know there is strong evidence about the negative impact of mental health problems for people who already have chronic physical conditions, and equally strong evidence that having a mental health problem increases the risk of every single major chronic disease," Professor Fels said. 

The report also highlights the large gender variations. For example, males with mental health conditions are 49 per cent more likely to report having asthma and females 70.3 per cent more likely.

Males with mental health conditions are 82 per cent more likely to report having cancer; and females 20 per cent more likely.

The report also found that females are 23 per cent more likely to have a co-existing physical and mental health condition than males.

AHPC director Rosemary Calder AM said the data clearly indicates significant differences for females and males in both risk factors and with correlated chronic health conditions.

Some revealing statistics from the report show: 

•    1.075 million Australians are living with a mental health condition and a circulatory disease such as heart failure or hypertension – Australia's biggest killer.

•    321,400 Australians are living with diabetes and a mental health condition. 

•    Almost 960,000 Australians have arthritis and a mental health condition.

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain