It is widely accepted that there is a link between mental and physical health, with many believing that being physically fit and well also helps to improve mental well-being. Conversely, it seems that poor mental and emotional health can negatively affect how people cope with physical problems. A new study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine has established that patients suffering from mental health issues may have poorer outcomes and slower recoveries following surgery than those who do not.
In the study conducted recently at Washington University School of Medicine in the USA, researchers analysed data from more than 5,600 patients aged between 29 and 41, all of whom were undergoing hip surgery.
This analysis revealed that those patients who had anxiety or depression before their surgery suffered worse outcomes post-operatively. They typically suffered more pain, longer hospital stays and/or a slower return to normal activity following their hip surgery than patients who did not suffer from any mental health concerns. All the patients in the studies had been physically healthy and active before developing hip problems.
As the Washington University study only applied to young patients undergoing arthroscopic surgery to treat hip problems, it does not provide evidence of a wider connection between pre-operative mental health problems and worse post-surgery recovery. The study was also limited in the age of participants
However, previous research carried out in 2015 found a similar link in patients undergoing liver resection surgery. In this study, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale was used to determine whether patients were suffering from anxiety or depression before their surgery. Neither condition was associated with an increased chance of mortality but both correlated with a longer stay in hospital after the liver resection was performed. Prior to this, similar patterns were observed in patients undergoing cardiac-surgery.
The results of these studies suggest that healthcare professionals should at least consider their patients’ mental as well as physical health when advising them before surgery and devising care plans following surgery. Referral to a psychiatrist or similar professional could be considered to assist the patient to deal with their underlying mental health in conjunction with the physical problem requiring them to undergo surgery.
In a wider sense, the recent study is a reminder of the strong connection between our mental and physical well-being, encouraging us all to make sure we take care of both our bodies and minds.