Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Mental Health and Quality of Life

Join the IPRC as we examine mental health and quality of life through a series of articles that will focus on aspects of mental health and related risk and protective factors.   Topics will include substance abuse and mental health, depression, anxiety and stress, suicide, poverty as a risk factor, and prevention. Through these articles we hope to provide insight and resources for communities and individuals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), well-being refers to how "people think and feel about their lives—the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions, resilience, satisfaction with life domains, or the realization of their potential." Well-being can be measured by the extent to which a person feels positive emotions like happiness and tranquility and their interest in life and positive moods.  It is also measured by the person's sense of being connected with others through social ties and his/her sense of satisfaction and meaning in life.   Measurement of well-being is expressed by the CDC as health related quality of life. (CDC, 2011a)

Mental disorders take many forms and can be very complicated and inter-related with physical health problems.   Persons suffering from severe physical illnesses, chronic disease or traumatic injury are at high risk, for example, of developing   mental illness due to poor quality of life.   The types of mental disorders outlined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) include anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, eating disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, and schizophrenia.  (NIMH, 2011d)

Health Related Quality of Life (HRQOL)

Because of the importance of well-being to health, surveillance of variables that measure health related quality of life have been gaining attention in the past two decades.  The CDC has developed HRQOL measurements for every part of the lifespan for use in prevention, including in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFSS) and the Porter Novelli Healthstyles Survey.   In these surveys questions measure the individual's general well-being;  global life satisfaction; satisfaction with emotional and social support; feeling happy in the past 30 days; meaning in life; autonomy, competence and relatedness;  domain specific life satisfaction; and positive and negative affect.  (CDC, 2011b)

Studying BRFSS survey data from 1993-2001, the CDC found frequent mental distress (FMD) to be a key indicator.   FMD is measured as reporting 14 or more mentally unhealthy days in the past month.  Besides its relationships to mental health, prevalence of FMD has also been found to be related to behaviors like smoking that are vital to the prevention of chronic disease.  (CDC, 2011c)

Next month's feature article will explore poverty and mental health.
For resources and information about mental health and addiction services and providers in Indiana please visit http://www.in.gov/fssa/dmha/index.htm.

By Barbara Seitz de Martinez, 12/01/2011