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Understanding the connection between physical and mental health

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Posted on 5th January 2021.

The body and the mind have often been seen as two separate entities, but when it comes to our overall wellbeing, they’re actually much closer connected than you might think.

When we partake in physical exercise, our body releases endorphins – also known as “good hormones” – which stimulate our mood. On the other hand, poor mental health can increase fatigue, which subsequently leads to more sedentary behaviour, which comes with its own health risks such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

And according to a recent study, 30% of all people with a long-term physical health condition also experience poor mental health, most commonly depression and/or anxiety.

But that’s not to say that you’re guaranteed to suffer from poor physical or mental health if you are struggling with its counterpart. In fact, understanding the link between physical and mental wellbeing could be one way counteract these adversities…

Importance of mental health in the elderly

The world’s population is ageing rapidly, with the total number of people over the age of 60 expected to double by 2050. Older adults make a huge contribution to our society, but according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 20% of adults over the age of 60 are living with a mental or neurological disorder, such as depression or dementia.

For many, getting older can often mean a change in lifestyle, and we can also be impacted by a number of factors that can be detrimental to our mental wellbeing in older years, such as bereavement, loneliness or a change in mobility. But whilst these factors can leave an impact on many people in later life, by no means are they an inevitable part of getting older.

The WHO says that the mental health of older adults can be improved through the promotion of active and healthy ageing, such as keeping a healthy lifestyle and having a stable and comfortable living environment.

The link between your mental and physical health

There are a number of lifestyle factors that can influence an individual’s mental and physical wellbeing, ultimately, poor physical health can lead to an increased chance of developing mental health problems. Whilst, similarly, poor mental health can then affect your physical health.

Keeping active is a really powerful way to enhance your physical and mental health. When we exercise, our body releases feel-good chemicals in the brain, which can greatly improve our mood. These chemicals – or endorphins – can also help with concentration, improve sleep and help you to feel more confident. If you struggle with mobility, exercise can also be a great way to build muscle strength, reducing the risk of falls. But keeping active doesn’t have to be regular visits to a gym or stringent exercise regimes; gentle activity such as light gardening, walking or yoga can be just as beneficial for your wellbeing.

Good nutrition is also a key factor when influencing the way we feel both physically and mentally. By getting the right nutrients, we are giving our bodies the fuel it needs to keep healthy and strong. What’s more, these healthy nutrients can also influence the development, management and prevention of numerous mental health or neurological conditions, such as depression, anxiety and dementia.

What conditions can be impacted?

Good mental health can go beyond its emotional influences and can actually go as far as to positively impact a physical condition. For example, psoriasis – an acute auto-immune condition commonly characterised by sores – is commonly triggered by stress. Therefore, a low-stress lifestyle will be a beneficial element to maintaining a psoriasis diagnosis.

But psoriasis isn’t the only condition that can be impacted by mental health…


Dementia affects around 850,000 people in the UK, and although it is most commonly diagnosed in adults over the age of 65, dementia can affect younger people too. However, when it comes to the correlation between dementia and lifestyle, a recent study suggested that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of getting dementia – even if a person has a higher genetic risk of developing the condition.

When living with dementia, mental health support is pivotal. Depression and anxiety are very common in dementia patients – particularly in the early stages – where the individual may become aware of their declining abilities.

There are some lifestyle changes that are thought to help prevent dementia, including keeping your mind active with crosswords, computer games or puzzles. Music therapy and aromatherapy are also thought to be of benefit, as well as environmental adaptations around the home. These therapies can help to reduce the frustrations and anxieties that come with dementia and allow the individual to feel more comfortable.


Approximately four in ten people living with diabetes will experience emotional stress related to the condition, which can greatly impact an individual’s ability to manage their wellbeing.

Managing diabetes is most commonly the responsibility of the individual living with the condition – or a parent or carer – and it requires constant motivation and changes to behaviours and routines. But mental health can be a big factor in the management process of diabetes – and a result of it, too.

Variable blood glucose levels can cause feelings of anxiety and anger. On the other hand, an individual’s mood may affect how they engage with their diabetes, subsequently impacting the effect the condition has over their body.

If you need support…

Here at Helping Hands, we provide specialised support that focuses around your physical and mental wellbeing as a whole. Whether you need support with preparing nutritious meals, getting gentle exercise or just a friendly face to enjoy spending time with, we’re here to ensure you can continue to live a healthy, happy life at home.

For more information, please call 0330 029 8699 or request a callback and we will call you.

If you would like to find out more about mental health support, you can read our blog, 30 Tips on Dealing with Mental Health, here.

If you or your loved one are in need of urgent mental health support, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123 for free.

Lauren Knowles Campaign & Brand Manager
About Lauren Knowles joined the Helping Hands team in April 2019. Lauren has a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Journalism and is a trustee for organ donation charity, Save9Lives.Read Lauren's full profile Read Lauren's full profile