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Why is mental health important for enhancing quality of life?

May 1, 2024
5 minutes
Lifestyle Health & Wellness
Mental health

Most people experience mental health challenges, whether occasionally or frequently. A mental health challenge may present as a small bump on our life journey or manifest as a full-blown crisis. It's important to understand that mental health is about more than just our emotions and happiness. In the world we live in, mental health is a crucial part of how we navigate life.

Why is mental health important? Our mental health has a profound impact on every area of our lives, from personal relationships to finding professional success. Placing emphasis on mental health gives us all a better chance at living our best lives and navigating effectively when life throws us curveballs. Overall life satisfaction and mental well-being are interconnected. Just as we care for our bodies, understanding and caring for our mental health helps us live our best lives.

What is mental health?

Mental health is a state of wellness that helps us cope with life's stresses, realize our potential and abilities, contribute to our communities, and learn well. In addition to psychological well-being, mental health includes our social and emotional well-being as well.

More than simply the absence of mental illnesses, mental health is much more complex. Everyone experiences mental health differently, with varying degrees of distress and difficulty. Equally important, different clinical and social outcomes have an effect on mental health.

Why is mental health important for overall health?

As an integral health component of well-being and overall health, mental health underpins our collective and individual abilities to function at optimal levels. This includes:

  • Making decisions
  • Handling stress
  • Staying active
  • Building and improving relationships
  • Increasing self-esteem
  • Being motivated
  • Pursuing educational or professional goals
  • Relating to other people
  • Thinking more clearly
  • Increasing productivity
  • Making healthy choices and informed decisions
  • Shaping the world we inhabit

What about being physically active and physically healthy? Exercise and physical activity are affected by mental health. Findings show people who exercise have fewer poor mental health days than people who don't exercise. Notably, all types of exercise are associated with decreased mental health problems.

Mental health can also have an impact on diet. When a person has positive mental health, they're more likely to have or make the time to prepare healthy meals for themselves and their families.

Can mental health change over time?

A person's mental health can definitely change over time. These changes depend on a variety of factors that include physical health, life satisfaction, coping abilities, and available resources.

Life circumstances can also affect mental health and add stress to our lives. For example, becoming a caregiver for a family member can affect mental health. Financial hardship also impacts mental health, along with working too many hours. Alternatively, the alleviation of any of these issues can have a positive effect on mental health.

The environment also plays a role in mental health. Seasonal changes can exacerbate mental health issues. For example, seasonal affective disorder is associated with decreased mental health in winter. Many people who live in northern climates experience seasonal affective disorder in the fall or winter.

How mental health can affect other conditions

Why should mental health be taken seriously? There is a clear and proven distinction between mental and physical health. According to The Centers for Disease Control, mental illness can increase our risk for a myriad of physical health problems or impact our ability to manage these serious conditions.


The average lifespan of individuals in the U.S. is significantly affected by serious mental illness. Despite the steady increase in life expectancy among Americans to 78.6 years old, individuals living with severe mental illnesses typically experience a lifespan ranging between 49 and 60 years

One contributing factor to this reduced life expectancy among individuals with mental health conditions is the prevalence of suicide, which stands as the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34. Within the general population, suicide ranked as the eleventh leading cause of death in 2021, resulting in the loss of more than 48,100 American lives. 

However, it's important to recognize that poor mental health also exacerbates serious health conditions and chronic diseases, thereby further shortening the lifespan of certain individuals.

If you or someone you know is struggling. Help is available. The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number is 988. Deaf and hard of hearing people using TTY can reach this hotline by dialing 711, then 988.

Chronic diseases

The mental health discussion should include how mental health affects physical health. NAMI reports a 40% increased risk of heart disease and other metabolic diseases in people with depression. Additionally, people living with chronic diseases such as these are at greater risk for depression:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer

Specifically, a research study suggests people with a chronic disease and depression are prone to experiencing more severe symptoms of both illnesses. The study also indicates that mental illness makes it more challenging to adapt to a chronic disease. 

‌Sleep problems

Most people know sleep can impact our mental health. If we have a restless night or live with insomnia, we're less effective during our waking hours. However, mental health also directly affects healthy sleep.

  • Depression: About 75% of people with depression have symptoms of insomnia. As a result, people with depression have the added burden of daytime sleepiness.
  • Seasonal affective disorder: Seasonal affective disorder is tied closely to the disruption of a person's circadian rhythm, the internal biological clock that controls sleep and several bodily processes. For this reason, people who live with seasonal affective disorder may sleep either too little or too much.
  • Anxiety disorders: In the U.S., anxiety disorders affect approximately 20% of adults, and these disorders are strongly associated with problems sleeping. In this situation, sleep problems often become an added source of anxiety, which creates anticipatory anxiety when it's time to go to sleep.
  • Bipolar disorder: In bipolar disorder, sleep patterns change frequently, and problems with sleep can worsen or even induce both manic and depressive periods.
  • Schizophrenia: People who live with schizophrenia have an increased likelihood of experiencing circadian rhythm disorders or insomnia.
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): People with ASD are more likely to experience sleep problems, including sleep-disordered breathing and insomnia.

Concentration problems

Being unable to concentrate affects nearly every aspect of a person's life. Many mental health conditions have an impact on our ability to concentrate. This can create issues in our interpersonal relationships, as well as in school or work. Alternatively, mentally healthy people have an increased chance of fulfilling their potential in these areas.

Substance abuse disorders

Adults in the U.S. who are living with a mental illness have a 33.5% chance of experiencing a substance use disorder, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. While this can include illicit or illegal drugs and substances, abuse of legal substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and controlled substances can also have an impact on physical health.


Taking active steps toward improving mental health gives us a head start to living a balanced and fulfilling life. Help and support are available, and mental health can improve with treatments such as therapy and medication. Evidation can help you track and monitor both mental and physical health while also earning points. With Evidation, you're empowered to make the most informed decisions about your mental health and overall well-being. Try Evidation today by downloading the app and getting started on your journey to the best version of you.

Mental health
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