Wellness concerns maintaining an overall quality of life and the pursuit of optimal emotional, mental, and physical health.


Focusing on health and wellness is particularly important for people with, or at risk for, behavioral health conditions. Behavioral health is a critical aspect of maintaining physical health and wellness. People with mental and/or substance use disorders typically die years earlier than the general population. A 2006 nationally representative survey reported that individuals with mental disorders died an average of 8.2 years younger than the rest of the population. Individuals with substance use conditions are often at higher risk for HIV and AIDS as well as hepatitis C due to intravenous drug use.

As a result of elevated tobacco use and other risk factors, people with serious mental illnesses—such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder—experience significant health disparities and are at increased risk for early mortality. A SAMHSA-funded study from 2006 revealed that people with serious mental illnesses experience heightened morbidity and mortality and often die decades earlier than the general population.This premature death is mostly due to preventable medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or infectious diseases (including HIV and AIDS). Other risk factors affecting their longevity include poverty, social isolation, trauma, obesity, side effects of medication, and lack of access to quality health care. In fact, among individuals with serious mental illnesses, 95.4% of deaths were caused by medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease (33.9%), cancer (21%), and pulmonary disease (13.5%).

SAMHSA defines wellness not as the absence of disease, illness, or stress but the presence of purpose in life, active involvement in satisfying work and play, joyful relationships, a healthy body and living environment, and happiness.

Visit SAMHSA’s eight dimensions of wellness webpage for additional information.

Learn more about SAMHSA’s efforts to address preventable disease and promote holistic wellness:

Last Updated: 09/15/2017