HealthDay News — More than half of Americans have at least one chronic disease, mental illness, or problem with drugs or alcohol, according to a study published online recently in Psychology, Health & Medicine.

Elizabeth Lee Reisinger Walker, PhD, and Benjamin Druss, MD, MPH, with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, examined public health records to find out what percentage of US adults have chronic medical conditions, mental illness, or substance abuse problems. Chronic medical conditions included asthma, cirrhosis, diabetes, heart disease, hepatitis, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, lung cancer, pancreatitis, and stroke.

The researchers found that 37.8% had at least one chronic medical condition. In addition, 18.4% had been diagnosed with a mental illness in the past year, and 8.6 percent abused drugs or alcohol during that time. Overall, 6.4% had a chronic medical condition as well as a mental illness; 2.2% had both a mental illness and a substance abuse problem; 1.5% had a chronic disease along with a drug or alcohol problem; and 2.2 million Americans (1.2%) have all three issues — a chronic medical condition, a mental illness, and a drug or alcohol problem.

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“Just over half of adults in the US have one or more chronic condition, mental disorder, or dependence on substances. These conditions commonly overlap with each other and with poverty, which contributes to poor health,” Walker said in a journal news release. “In order to promote overall health, it is important to consider all of a person’s health conditions along with poverty and other social factors.”

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  1. Walker ER, Druss BG. Cumulative burden of comorbid mental disorders, substance use disorders, chronic medical conditions, and poverty on health among adults in the U.S.A. Psychology, Health & Medicine. 3 September 2016.