Is the United States Health Care System in Trouble?

The state of US health care is intertwined into our news nearly every day, and health issues amongst Americans continue to increase across the country. Unfortunately, according to a new study published in Psychology, Health & Medicine, it could get worse.

Currently, more than 50% of Americans have a least 1 chronic condition, mental disorder, or substance abuse issue.

“The health of individuals in the USA is increasingly being defined by complexity and multimorbidity, the co-occurrence of 2 or more chronic medical conditions,” said study authors Elizabeth Lee Reisinger Walker and Benjamin G. Druss.

For the study, researchers set out to delve into what proportion of adults in the United States experience each combination of mental illness, chronic medical conditions, and substance abuse or dependence. They also wanted to determine how this combination of conditions related to poverty.

The results of the study showed that overall, there were 18.4% of adults with a mental illness in the past year, with 8.6% reporting substance abuse or dependence during the same time. Nearly 40% of individuals had 1 or more chronic medical condition in their lifetimes, and 14.7% were living in poverty.

Researchers compared individuals without any condition to adults with 1 condition. They found that adults with 1 condition (any mental illness [AMI], chronic conditions, or substance abuse/dependence) had higher percentages of living in poverty, receiving government handouts, having less than a high school education, were unemployed, and have zero health insurance.

When researchers looked at it together, they found that 6.4% of individuals reported having AMI and chronic conditions, 2.2% reported AMI and substance abuse/dependence, and 1.5% reported substance abuse/dependence and chronic medical conditions. Furthermore, there were 1.2%, equivalent to 2.2 million people, who reported having all 3 conditions.

Researchers also examined the association between mental illness and substance abuse. Individuals with AMI were approximately 3 times more likely to report substance abuse or dependence, almost 1.5 times more likely to have a chronic medical condition, and 1.2 times more likely to live in poverty.

“Just over half of adults in the US have 1 or more chronic condition, mental disorder, or dependence on substances,” Walker said. “These conditions commonly overlap with each other and with poverty, which contributes to poor health.”

To improve the health of individuals living with multimorbidities, authors stated that there needs to be an increase in access to and coordination between different services.

“Collaborative care models are effective in treating mental illnesses in primary care and providing primary care in specialty mental health settings,” the study authors wrote.

The authors noted that when promoting overall health, it’s important to keep in mind all health conditions an individual may be suffering from, as well as poverty and other social factors.