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Metabolic Syndrome in Adults With Mental Illness, Research Paper Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1355

Research Paper

Metabolic syndrome is a set of conditions that are associated with poor health. These conditions typically include diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. People with metabolic syndrome are usually obese which many scientists believe is the underlying cause of the conditions mentioned above. Although metabolic syndrome has become increasingly prevalent in the world at large, it is even more so in people with mental illness. This disparity has become the cornerstone of inquiry into not only metabolic syndrome but also mental illness and its treatment. As such, certain questions have been raised with respect to the nature of this phenomenon. Why are people with mental illness more likely to develop metabolic syndrome? Are certain segments of the mentally ill more at risk than others? What, if anything, can be done to curb the trend? What is the overall impact of metabolic syndrome on the population of people with mental illness?

Some of these questions will be addressed here at least in part. Perhaps, one of the most compelling questions is whether trends toward mental illness are causative factors in metabolic syndrome or as people become less healthy physically do they suffer psychological consequences that express themselves as mental illness. Although an answer to this sort of chicken-egg dichotomy would bring us much closer to a solution to the problem as a whole and that with respect to mental illness in particular, it is unlikely that this study will sufficiently answer it to affect any really applicable knowledge. Nevertheless, an exploration of metabolic syndrome in the population of mentally ill adults will help bring greater understanding of the phenomenon such that more effective treatments may be developed in the future.

The correlation between metabolic syndrome and body weight has been well documented. The more obese a person is the more likely they are to endure complications such as insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, high blood pressure, and inflammatory complications (Toalson, Ahmed, Hardy, & Kabinoff, 2004). The prevalence of these disorders is significantly higher in adults with mental illness (Toalson, Ahmed, Hardy, & Kabinoff, 2004). This seems to be true across studies as well as across boarders (Kato, Currier, Gomez, Hall, & Gonzalez-Blanco, 2004; Toalson, Ahmed, Hardy, & Kabinoff, 2004). But why?

Some researchers believe it has to do with medication associated with treating mental illness (Mackin, Watkinson, & Young, 2005). Many of the complications associated with metabolic syndrome in adults with mental illness are associated with changes in the way the body metabolizes glucose due to the use of medication, especially newer ones (Mackin, Watkinson, & Young, 2005). These changes are associated with higher levels of cardiovascular risk-causing lipids. This appears to be true across cultures where European participants and Australian participants experience the same difficulties (John, Koloth, Dragovic, & Lim, 2009). Many studies reveal differences between adults with mental illness and the general population with respect to metabolic syndrome.

Some researchers believe this disparity is multifactor. They looked at life style and social differences between adults with mental illness and the general population with respect to metabolic syndrome.  One of the contributing factors to metabolic syndrome in adults with mental illness may be the disease itself. Typically, adults who are mentally ill suffer an inordinate amount of stress as a result of their disease. One of the physiological components of stress is the increased production of cortisol in the body (John, Koloth, Dragovic, & Lim, 2009). Cortisol is known to trigger the body to route more of the metabolic process toward fat storage (John, Koloth, Dragovic, & Lim, 2009). This could account for some of the symptoms associated with the syndrome.

Also, the way a mental illness manifests itself may also contribute the high incidence of metabolic syndrome. For example, people who are clinically depressed often move around less than they would if they were well. This alone could account for some portion of the incidence of obesity. Furthermore, people with mental illness are known to be more likely to smoke than the general population (Newcomer, 2007). Smoking itself is known correlate with waist measurements. The more a person smokes, the more likely they are to have a larger waistline measurement. Thus, lifestyle is an important factor in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the mentally ill adult population (Newcomer, 2007). Another noteworthy factor in the incidence of metabolic syndrome in the mentally ill adult population is the fact that the more severe the illness, the more likely the patient will suffer metabolic syndrome.
Nevertheless, there does not seem too much (if any) relevant information addressing the question of the relative impact of each of these factors in the development of metabolic syndrome in the mentally ill adult population. It is a well-documented fact that antipsychotic drugs are notoriously responsible for a good portion of the problem (Newcomer, 2007). Plus, certain lifestyle factors such as poor access to healthcare information is another reason (Newcomer, 2007). Some of the problem may also be attributable to the fact that mental illness itself has a physically debilitating effect on a patient’s perception of physical energy levels (Newcomer, 2007).

These understandings notwithstanding, the imperative inquiry is not necessarily understood. Do people develop metabolic syndrome as a cause or an effect of mental illness? That is to say, if a person becomes less healthy physically how much more likely are they to develop metabolic syndrome. Are they more likely to develop mental illness than the general population? If so, by how much?

One way of investigating this question is to develop a research protocol aim at isolating the main factors of the question. A random sampling of participants could be collected to glean certain data to compare. Researchers could take measures of metabolic health from the participants such as waistlines, fasting glucose levels, blood lipids, and stress tests. This data could be compared to questionnaires geared toward measuring ones tendency toward given mental illnesses, such as the MMPI. Given, there could be temporal, financial, and other resource constraints to an immediate in-depth study as outlined here, but a scaled-down version may be implemented as pilot study. For example, instead of implementing a full MMPI evaluation (which could take many hours per participant) or measuring fasting blood glucose levels (which could include unnecessary expense), researchers could implement a series of shorter simpler inventories for individual illnesses such as depression and anxiety and take less invasive measures of metabolic health such as resting heart-rate measures. Nevertheless, the relationship between metabolic syndrome and mental illness warrants further investigation to achieve a more solid understanding that could lead to better treatments for not only adults with mental illness who suffer with metabolic syndrome but also the general population.

Perhaps, one of the most compelling questions is whether trends toward mental illness are causative factors in metabolic syndrome or as people become less healthy physically do they suffer psychological consequences that express themselves as mental illness. Nevertheless, an exploration of metabolic syndrome in the population of mentally ill adults will help bring greater understanding of the phenomenon such that more effective treatments may be developed in the future. As such, a method of delineating the relationship between metabolic syndrome and mental illness has been outlined. The crux of further study should inquire about whether tendencies toward metabolic syndrome are a significant factor in mental illness. If so, for example, how much do prevailing cultural attitudes about obesity play into the psychosocial development of the mental illness in those who are obese?

References

John, A. P., Koloth, R., Dragovic, M. & Lim, S. C. (2009). Prevalence of metabolic syndrome among Australians with mental illness. MJA, 4.

Kato, M. M., Currier, M. B., Gomez, C.M, Hall, L., & Gonzalez-Blanco, M. (2004). Prevalence of metabolic syndrome in Hispanic and Non-Hispanic patients with schizophrenia. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, 6(2): 74–77.

Mackin, P., Watkinson, H. M., & Young, A. H. (2005). Prevalence of obesity, glucose homeostasis disorders and metabolic syndrome in psychiatric patients taking typical or atypical antipsychotic drugs: a cross-sectional study. Diabetologia, 48: 215–221.

Newcomer, J. (2007). Metabolic syndrome and mental illness. The American Journal of Managed Care, 13(7): 170-177.

Toalson, P., Ahmed, S., Hardy, T., & Kabinoff, G. (2004).  The metabolic syndrome in patients with severe mental illnesses. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, 6(4): 152–158.

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