Research indicates alarming health disparities between people with serious mental and/or substance use disorders and the general population. These individuals are likely to die decades earlier, mostly due to preventable, chronic medical conditions.
SAMHSA works towards a future in which people with mental and/or substance use disorders pursue optimal health and recovery. Many people who have experienced these disorders can achieve a full and satisfying life in the community, especially when they can access effective services and support systems. The Wellness Initiative encourages people to improve their mental and physical health through positive lifestyle changes.
Wellness can improve quality of life and increase years of life, especially for people with behavioral health conditions. Reducing health disparities prevents early deaths and may also lower the nation's healthcare costs. An analysis of medical expenditures published in 2015 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that trauma-related disorders, cancer, mental disorders, heart conditions, and arthritis and other non-traumatic joint disorders are the most costly conditions among American adults ages 18 to 64.
Many factors play a role in these disparities that impact people with serious mental and/or substance use disorders, including:
- Higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and infectious disease (including HIV)
- Elevated risk factors due to high rates of smoking, substance misuse, obesity, and unsafe sexual practices
- Increased vulnerability due to poverty, social isolation, trauma and violence, and incarceration
- Lack of coordination between mental and primary healthcare providers
- Prejudice and discrimination
- Side effects from psychotropic medications
- Overall lack of access to health care, particularly preventive care
The Eight Dimensions of Wellness
Wellness means overall well-being. It includes the mental, emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life. Incorporating aspects of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, such as choosing healthy foods, forming strong relationships, and exercising often, into everyday habits can help people live longer and improve quality of life. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness may also help people better manage their condition and experience recovery.
National Wellness Week
National Wellness Week is held during the third week of September (September 11-17 in 2016) and shares the message that practicing wellness provides an essential foundation for good health. Since the founding of National Wellness Week in 2011, at least 300 organizations in 46 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam have celebrated wellness with more than 700 wellness-related events and activities.
Access National Wellness Week resources to help your community plan activities and events.
SAMHSA’s Wellness Initiative offers many guides, posters, publications, and other resources you can use to share messages about the importance of wellness. Access the wellness resources.
The Program to Achieve Wellness
Putting wellness into practice and highlighting the science behind effective wellness techniques, the Program to Achieve Wellness (PAW) incorporates wellness into recovery for people across the country By offering technical assistance, developing products, and engaging communities, the PAW can help with the design and implementation of both small- and large-scale wellness efforts, transforming the lives of people with mental or substance use disorders. The PAW complements the work of SAMHSA’s existing Wellness Initiative, and helps individuals, organizations, communities, states and tribes to understand and take action toward the Eight Dimensions of Wellness.
Contact the PAW for information and resources.