Mental health may be impacted by a range of mood disorders that affect both thinking and behaviour such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, as well as substance use disorder. Reducing this disease burden will have a cascading effect on the healthcare system, from a direct reduction in cost on mental health professionals to the indirect cost of reduced substance abuse. This article focuses on three indicators of mental health: depression, anxiety, and stress.
The global burden of the disease is generally assessed by the World Health Organization (WHO) based on disability-adjusted life years (DALY). From this point of view, mood disorders are reported to be at the top of the global disease burden. Depression, one of the mood disorders, results from the complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors and is a common disease globally, affecting about 121 million people (World Health Organization [WHO], 2008). According to 2019 data, it is reported that 5.0% of adults, 5.7% of individuals over the age of 60, and 3.8% of the global population suffer from depression. Although depression is different from the usual mood swings and short-term emotional reactions to the difficulties in daily life, it can deeply affect the lives of individuals, especially with the accompanying major depression. Depression can lead to cardiovascular events and stroke due to these changes that affect daily life and lifestyle changes, and as a result, it can increase mortality and morbidity. In addition, depression can extend to suicide, and it has been reported that the fourth cause of death for individuals aged 15–29 is suicide.
Anxiety disorders are defined as a negative, uncertain, and unpleasant emotional state resulting from the anticipation of a potential danger with multifactorial causes. It represents a group of common mental health disorders that negatively affect daily life and well-being. Anxiety disorders involve excessive and persistent fear, worry, and/or avoidance of perceived threats in the external (e.g., social situations) or internal (e.g., bodily sensations) environment, often accompanied by panic attacks.
How Vitamin D plays a crucial role in Mental Health?
Active vitamin D binds to vitamin D receptors (VDR) in the body to regulate physiologic functions such as emotional well-being and stress. VDRs are found in more than 30 cell types throughout the body. Active vitamin D also regulates tyrosine hydroxylase, which in turn regulates the production of the mood-regulating neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and dopamine. The absolute or relative lack of norepinephrine is associated with most if not all, types of mental health outcomes. Lower dopamine levels are associated with mental health issues such as diminished motivation and psychomotor retardation. Vitamin D may indirectly regulate mood by stimulating genes that produce neurotransmitters that relieve depressive emotions.
Therefore, it is very important to monitor Vitamin D levels in the body. Exercising outdoors in the sunshine, eating foods rich in vitamin D, and/or taking dietary supplements to improve vitamin D deficiency could improve one’s mental well-being. To know more and understand properly about Vitamin D, consult your family physician.
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