Mental illness is an increasing major public health concern. The General Practice: Health of the Nation Report 2018, found that mental health issues remain the most common single reason patients visit their GP and account for 12% of the total disease burden in Australia, third after cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
A growing body of Australian and international research shows that diet, nutrition and physical activity are effective treatments for the most common chronic diseases including depression, yet this is not adequately reflected in treatment guidelines or routinely addressed in clinical practice.
Dr Sam Manger, ASLM President says, “Lifestyle Medicine is not just highly effective in preventing and reversing cardiometabolic disease but it is also useful in mental illness itself. In major depressive disorder, 32% of people with moderate to severe symptoms respond to diet. In addition, regular physical movement is as effective as antidepressants in major depression and can reduce psychiatric symptoms in those with schizophrenia.”
“Sleep disorders are particularly interesting because they cause treatment resistance and significantly worsened depression and psychotic symptoms. Furthermore, intensive lifestyle treatments can result in improved symptoms and slower neurocognitive decline in patients with dementia,” he says.
Karen Wilson, Chair of the Wilson Foundation, says “The Wilson Foundation is proud to be partnering with ASLM to work on this problem by producing evidence-based therapeutic guidelines and education for practitioners in addressing the causes of both chronic disease and poor mental health, which commonly coexist.”
“ASLM is delighted to begin this important work with funding from the Wilson Foundation”, Dr Manger says. “We will publish a series of position statements and therapeutic guidelines for medical practitioners and other health professionals to make lifestyle-based approaches more accessible for practitioners.”
“We will also develop training modules, practitioner resources and patient information, meaning that diet and nutrition, movement, physical activity, sleep hygiene, cessation of smoking, reduction of alcohol consumption and stress management will increasingly be addressed in standard care,” says Dr Manger.
Karen Wilson adds, “Working together with ASLM we look forward to raising awareness of this important issue and advocating for significant change in our health system to address the underlying causes of mental illness and chronic disease, with more effective and innovative models of healthcare.”