The 18th annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley lecture highlighted research proving the negative physical effects of mental disorders.
American psychologist Terrie E. Moffitt, a professor of social development and psychology, shared insights during the Feb. 3 event into the research she and other mental health professionals collected for four decades.
The 50-year longitudinal study linked mental health diagnosis in youth to accelerated biological aging. Other findings included an increased likelihood of developing dementia and the increased chance of developing chronic physical diseases at a younger age.
Compared to those without mental disorder diagnoses, research showed dementia was four times as likely to materialize in cohorts with mental disorders, Moffitt said.
Moffitt explained the similarity in death rates between those with physical diseases and those diagnosed with mental disorders in their youth. The lecture also accented how those diagnosed with mental disorders faced an accelerated deterioration of hearing, motor skills, balance and vision.
The research she discussed was based on a study that tracked 1,000 people from birth until adulthood. The cohorts analyzed were based in New Zealand and had various socioeconomic backgrounds.
During her presentation, Moffitt said mental illnesses have the stigma of being rare. This stigma of rarity causes a lack of mental health diagnosis and treatment. The research found those analyzed had an 85% chance of being diagnosed with a mental disorder.
“If you stay mentally well your entire life, you’re not normal,” Moffitt said. “People accumulate different diagnoses over decades of their lives.”
She stressed the importance of mental health recognition in youth especially. The opportunity to treat a young person’s mental health will help them greatly later on in life, Moffitt said.
Preventative measures can alleviate the future effects of mental disorders on one’s physical health. Moffitt said a holistic approach to psychological treatment would effectively aid patients in coping with their diagnoses and any future mental aliments.
With the increased knowledge on how prevalent and physically costly mental disorders are, further support can be offered in regards to helping mental health in all stages of one’s life, she said.
“With less stigma, we would be more compassionate and more welcoming,” Moffitt said. “I think that would go a long way with improving how people with serious mental disorders are accepted by society and not rejected.”