Mental health assessment in health checks can help detect psychologically vulnerable people

If mental health was made part of a health check, then it would be possible to detect vulnerable people who have not received assistance from doctors or psychologists for their psychological problems. This is shown by a new study from Aarhus University.

People with mental health problems would be identified if the health check, in addition to taking blood pressure, cholesterol level and waist measurement, also focused on mental health. A study from Aarhus University that evaluates a health-promoting initiative for 30 to 49-year-old people in Randers Municipality called 'Check your health', shows that nine per cent of almost 5,000 people who were given a health check were psychologically vulnerable. More than half of them had not received help for their psychological problems from medical doctors or psychologists within the last year.

They had their height, weight, blood pressure and blood sugar measured and also answered a questionnaire about their health habits and about how they assessed their health.

"The study has found many people who have not received help for their psychological problems. This suggests that the health check can identify a group who do not receive the help they need," explains PhD student Christine Geyti from the Section for General Medical Practice at the Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, who is behind the study.

The results have just been published in Preventive Medicine Reports.

Knowledge should help the weakest

The study also shows that a large part of people with poor mental health have a short-term education, low income or that they live alone, and among them there is a high incidence of people who did not receive help for their psychological problems.

"Not everyone with poor mental health needs medical or psychological help, but by making these people and the general practitioner aware of the fact that there may be a problem, we can more easily prevent this from developing into a regular need for treatment," explains the researcher.

The general practitioners can combine the results with their knowledge of their patients' general resources and thereby target their focus towards the most vulnerable people.

"The study can contribute to considering whether we should include a target for mental health in future health checks," says Christine Geyti.

Background for the results:

The study is a cohort study. The study was based on 9,767 randomly selected citizens aged 30-49 who were invited to a health check in Randers Municipality between 2012-14. A total of 4,871 - or fifty per cent - participated in the study, where 49 per cent of the participants were men.

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