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Mental Illness: Mind? Body? Both?

People with so-called mental illness are actually sicker in their bodies than in their brains. What does this mean for diagnosis and treatment?

In last week’s post, Worried sick, I briefly mentioned a study which examined markers of both brain and body health in people diagnosed with any of four neuropsychiatric conditions, and found that they had greater deviations from healthy controls in markers of body health – most notably in their metabolic, hepatic, and immune systems – than in markers of brain health.

This study, titled ‘Evaluation of Brain-Body Health in Individuals With Common Neuropsychiatric Disorders, is interesting both for what it reveals about the physical health of people diagnosed with (so-called) mental illness, and what it fails to discuss. Let’s dig into it together.

Researchers from a number of Australian universities and medical research centres obtained biometric data on brain and body health from almost 86 000 adults diagnosed with one or more “common neuropsychiatric disorders” – schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and generalised anxiety disorder – and a roughly equal number of healthy controls (i.e. people who had never had any of these diagnoses), matched for age and sex.

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