The purpose of this study was to compare the burden of disease experienced by people with mental health conditions with people who have common medical disorders. Three prevalent medical disorders—the burden of disease of back/neck problems, diabetes, and hypertension—were compared with the mental health category of depression, anxiety, or emotional problem.
This study used data from the nationally representative 2003–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for respondents aged 18 or older (n=4,833). The measurement of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) used was the Healthy Days Measures developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unadjusted and adjusted HRQOL were compared for individuals reporting each of the four conditions. Adjusted HRQOL was assessed using ordinary least squares regression, which controlled for gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, marital status, comorbidity, and income.
Individuals with mental health conditions experienced 17.6 total unhealthy days per month, while those with back and neck problems and those with hypertension experienced 12.2 total unhealthy days per month, and those with diabetes experienced 12.3 total unhealthy days per month. After adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic characteristics as well as comorbid conditions, mental health conditions were responsible for a 6.8-day decrease in healthy days per month compared with average adults (p<0.001). Mental health conditions resulted in significantly lower HRQOL than back or neck problems (p=0.053), diabetes, (p=0.002), and hypertension (p=0.012).
There were significant differences between the HRQOL found in mental and medical conditions, with mental health conditions being responsible for significantly greater impairment of HRQOL. An efficient health-care system should consider the relative disease burden of specific conditions when allocating public health resources.