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Half of Americans Have at Least One Chronic Health Condition

Medical conditions, mental illness, and substance abuse problems often overlap

doctor and patient

THURSDAY, Nov. 3, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- More than half of Americans have at least one chronic disease, mental illness, or problem with drugs or alcohol, according to a study published online recently in Psychology, Health & Medicine.

Elizabeth Lee Reisinger Walker, Ph.D., and Benjamin Druss, M.D., M.P.H., with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, examined public health records to find out what percentage of U.S. adults have chronic medical conditions, mental illness, or substance abuse problems. Chronic medical conditions included asthma, cirrhosis, diabetes, heart disease, hepatitis, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, lung cancer, pancreatitis, and stroke.

The researchers found that 37.8 percent had at least one chronic medical condition. In addition, 18.4 percent had been diagnosed with a mental illness in the past year, and 8.6 percent abused drugs or alcohol during that time. Overall, 6.4 percent had a chronic medical condition as well as a mental illness; 2.2 percent had both a mental illness and a substance abuse problem; 1.5 percent had a chronic disease along with a drug or alcohol problem; and 2.2 million Americans (1.2 percent) have all three issues -- a chronic medical condition, a mental illness, and a drug or alcohol problem.

"Just over half of adults in the U.S. have one or more chronic condition, mental disorder, or dependence on substances. These conditions commonly overlap with each other and with poverty, which contributes to poor health," Walker said in a journal news release. "In order to promote overall health, it is important to consider all of a person's health conditions along with poverty and other social factors."

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