Healthcare professionals have been treating patients’ symptoms quite a long time, intending to improve the condition of their bodies: stopping bleeding, lowering fever, and destroying dangerous infections.

Today, medicine has shifted from a focus primarily on the symptoms of illness to a proactive, integrative view of health care. Care is no longer only conventional medical treatments but emphasizes health and wellbeing for whole person care, including psychosocial, mental, and spiritual health for patients.

Learn more about the history of whole person care, chronic conditions and mental health, and how whole person care is a promising approach to improving overall health and wellbeing.

Physical health and mental health connection

The connection between mind and body is more than just theory. Experts believe mental health can help or hinder physical symptoms of illness, and conversely, physical health can affect mental health. Research has demonstrated that poor mental health has a negative effect on heart health—in fact, stress has been associated with a 40% increased risk of developing heart disease. Other studies have found mentally healthy individuals have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.1 Integrative, whole-person care can also alleviate anxiety and minimize pain, according to a study of cardiovascular patients who reported a 50% decrease in pain and anxiety after receiving integrative medicine treatments.2

Focusing on improved mental health can also improve physical symptoms of chronic disease and help patients live happier lives. According to the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey, more than 51% of adults live with at least one chronic condition, including arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.3 Although patients often live a full life after a chronic disease diagnosis, they may have to adjust their lifestyle to support ongoing health—limiting certain types of food or resting more often during a hike.

Secondary symptoms of a chronic illness—such as depression and anxiety—are treatable, but these symptoms need to be recognized and addressed first. For many patients, symptoms associated with physical health often overshadow signs of poor mental health. Many chronic conditions require patients to participate in self-care, including exercise, therapies, and diet changes; but co-existing mental conditions, by the nature of their diseases, limit a person’s ability to care for themselves—it’s a no-win situation that can compound over time.4

Healthcare professionals are now recognizing that physical health and mental health aren’t siloed, but are instead linked together with lifestyle, spiritual health, and social health. In other words, a health care aim should be to care for the whole person instead of just a person’s physical body.

How can a person engage in whole person care?

Known in many medical circles as integrative or complementary medicine,5 healthcare providers focusing on whole person care are beginning to pull in elements of non-traditional wellness, including yoga, meditation, guided imagery, and state-of-the-art therapies. Research has found integrative medicine a valuable tool for chronic conditions like cancer and diabetes to help patients with these conditions take a more active role in their health. Patients can use non-traditional methods of self-care instead of relying solely on passive screenings, lab work, and treatment options.6

Whole person care takes health care to a new level and can empower people to take control of their wellness alongside their health professionals. Experts have long believed mental health can help or hinder physical symptoms of illness, and conversely, physical health can affect mental health. Although the concept is relatively new, studies are very promising.

How can mental health programs improve physical health?

Mental health programs can improve health in a few ways: they reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety that can cause problems with physical health, help patients relax and develop a more positive outlook on their health, and help prioritize self-care—which includes making and keeping doctor’s visits and remembering to take medication.

Beyond the individual benefits, complementary medicine can lead to better patient outcomes and lower costs for providers and insurers. Caring for chronic conditions can be expensive for both payers and patients but adding complementary or integrative medicine has saved between $26 to $48 billion annually.7 Addressing mental health concerns and physical health maintenance also helps businesses and the economy at large—good physical and mental health leads to more productive workers and a healthier economy.

Uprise Health’s whole person services

At Uprise Health, we believe that whole person care is an effective approach to improving overall wellbeing. Our solutions are designed to improve access and availability of mental health care and connect mental health care with physical health care. From group therapy to self-guided coaching sessions, our products offer tools to support mental health and a positive lifestyle. Learn how Uprise Health can lead to a healthier, happier workforce by requesting a demo. Request a Demo of Uprise Health Digital EAP and Mental Health Solutions