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Tackling the link between mental health and chronic illness with data-driven solutions

In the ongoing struggle to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety – which saw a global increase of around 25% in 2020 alone – remain a significant burden on individuals and society. For those also dealing with chronic health conditions, this can complicate their ability to effectively manage their care, and the intertwined nature of mental health and chronic illness can lead to worse outcomes for both conditions.

As we reflect on the importance of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, I’m proud of the work accomplished by Sharecare’s Life Sciences team which reveal insights into the intersections between mental and physical well-being and inspired innovation to help alleviate the adverse effects and improve overall patient outcomes.

Research insights

To gain a deeper understanding of the intricate interplay between mental health and chronic illness, Sharecare conducted a large scale qualitative and quantitative research effort, fielding the “Mind Your Health” survey. Denise Esakoff, senior vice president of strategic performance, and I surveyed thousands of consumers and hundreds of physicians in 2022 and again in 2023, and held focus groups with patients who had various chronic conditions in 2023. Our findings showed that:

  • Depression occurrence is 5x higher among patients with chronic disease compared to the general U.S. population, while anxiety is 2x as high. 
  • Only 31% of respondents with depression or anxiety had been diagnosed, underscoring the critical need for improved mental health awareness and care.
  • Depression or anxiety directly impacts chronic disease management, with a mere 1 in 5 patients with severe depression or anxiety having their condition under control.

From data to action 

In response to Sharecare’s research revealing that depression and anxiety are pervasive and potentially underdiagnosed in America – and the resulting lack of treatment interferes with the management of a chronic illness or condition – we introduced Mind Your Health content capsules, to support mindfulness and mental well-being in chronic condition sufferers. 

The program encompasses content modules tailored to specific health conditions like psoriasis or atopic dermatitis and features resources including videos with neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Jud Brewer, chief medical officer at Sharecare and New York Times bestselling author of Unwinding Anxiety, and Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a leading family physician and medical expert. By empowering patients with easy-to-understand, concise information, we can boost their confidence in discussing their health issues with their doctors and enable them to take charge of their healthcare journey.

Meeting patients where they are

By listening to patients’ experiences and centering solutions on addressing their concerns, we create a more inclusive and empathetic environment for patients to navigate their personal health journeys. In doing so, we can ensure these individuals receive the mental health support and care they need to thrive.

At Sharecare, we believe that effective health and well-being programs must focus on the whole person – including both physical and mental. After all, it’s only human to struggle, feel anxious, and need support. By employing data-driven solutions like those identified by our Mind Your Health research, we can help transform the healthcare landscape, allowing patients to better manage their mental health and chronic illness, and ultimately, lead happier and healthier lives.

Read the full white paper: