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Mental distress nay be more harmful than chronic illness

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It's important to understand the perceived wellbeing of patients with chronic illness and those who suffer from mental distress.

A research study supported by Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions shows that psychological distress tends to have a more negative impact than some chronic health conditions on patients' perception of their overall wellbeing or quality of life.  

The study, "Quality of Life Across Medical Conditions and Psychological Factors: Implications for Population Health Management," published in the November 2015 edition of Quality of Life Research, shows how depressive feelings are negatively associated with an individual's overall quality of life and health.

The results from this study showcase that psychological distress impacts quality of life as much, or even more in some cases, than the presence of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic pain and others.

"Our research further solidifies the need for caregivers and doctors to understand the mental state of patients in order to achieve the desired health outcome," said Dr. Shawn Mason, director of research & analytics of Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions and co-author of the study. Additionally, the study found that chronic pain had the highest effect on impairing work performance and daily activities.

"If the healthcare system can continue to evolve to address chronic pain, the importance of both medical and psychological factors must be applied with consideration for both patient care and finances," said Mason.  

Previous studies have demonstrated that managing psychological stress improves patients' chronic medical conditions.

"Our study further suggests that with a negative perceived quality of life, patients are less likely to take an active role in managing their health," said Len Greer, president of Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions. "This is problematic because failing to follow screening recommendations or medication regimes, as well as not seeking treatment when necessary, may contribute to worsening health."

The study consisted of 1,424,430 participants; some had no chronic health conditions and others suffered from chronic illnesses such as pulmonary conditions, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, cancer, diabetes and cerebrovascular conditions. Psychological factors included stress, which was measured using the Perceived Stress Scale and recorded participants' stress over the course of one month, and depressive symptoms, which was measured by the Centers for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale.  "Quality of Life" and "Health-Related Quality of Life" were measured on a five-point scale.

The U.S. study was conducted between May 2005 and January 2012.