The Connection Between Mental
Health and Quality of Life

mental health

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 16.1 million adults in the U.S. suffer from Major Depressive Disorder each year. That is roughly 6.7 percent of the population.

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for those aged 15 to around 45 years of age. When your mental health is bad it can have a devastating impact on your quality of life and prevent you from completing even the most basic daily tasks.

But what can be done about it? How can you restore the balance in your life and improve your quality of life?

What Is Quality Of Life?

Quality of life pertains to an individual’s comfort, health, and ability to engage in everyday life. And the enjoyment of life events.

Quality of life centers around these facets of overall health and wellbeing:

The true meaning of quality of life can vary from one individual to another depending on what they feel makes them truly happy and fulfilled.

For some, it may mean having a lot of money and material possessions. While others may only require the most basic of creature comforts in order to thrive and feel satisfied. 

A person’s quality of life is also affected by the environment in which they live. It is subjective as each person’s unique socioeconomic backgrounds and circumstances heavily influence what they consider to be good or bad.

A person with a disability may have poor physical health, but if all of their basic needs such as food, shelter, socialization, and ongoing medical care are being met, they may describe themselves as having a good quality of life.

A person who bases all of their happiness on their job, their relationship, or their material goods can suffer a tremendous setback if they lose their job suddenly, the relationship ends, or their material possessions are destroyed. 

Mental health can also heavily influence a person’s perception of their quality of life. Mental illnesses such as anxiety can make an individual’s day-to-day life seem so hectic and so overwhelming that they seldom participate. Likewise, a condition like depression tells the individual that there is nothing good in this life and they shouldn’t even bother.

Contributing Factors To Mental Health

Mental health can be situational, meaning it is highly dependent on certain areas of an individual’s life, like their job and relationship. But it is most often due to issues within their genetics or family upbringing. Many families have a history of mental problems that they may not seek treatment for.

When mental health is not properly addressed, the problem will continue to grow until it is just a matter of time before a total mental breakdown occurs.

Mental health’s components can come from many different areas in a person’s life and such as:

In addition to these causes, mental health issues can also stem from brain disorders like seizures or from a traumatic head injury. Alcohol and drug use can also contribute to the onset or worsening of mental health problems.

Having a high level of stress over a long period of time or being a long-term caregiver to someone else can contribute to increased mental health concerns.

Socioeconomic inequalities are a leading cause for a decline in mental health status. The social disadvantages of living in poverty or in massive debt can be a cause of mental health deterioration, as well as homelessness or a lack of safe and affordable housing for those with lower incomes.

One issue on its own is enough to severely affect an individual’s mental health. But in most cases, one issue leads to another and another until it snowballs out of control.

If a person can not get a good enough handle on one situation, it is likely to lead to more problems down the road and cause the individual to spiral deeper into mental turmoil.


Individuals struggling with mental health issues who do not seek professional treatment of any kind will frequently begin to self-medicate themselves.

This can include destructive behaviors such as heavy drinking or recreational drug use, or turning to food and sex with multiple partners for comfort. They may also withdraw from their social circles for fear of being judged or shamed.

Those who are involved in self-medicating often do not see a problem with what they are doing. They believe it brings them some level of happiness and cannot see the damage it is doing to themselves or others around them. Self-medicating is misconstrued as a coping mechanism.


Frequently, self-medicating can go hand in hand with destructive thoughts, leading to self-harm. Self-harm is the act of inflicting physical pain on yourself in an attempt to distract your mind from intrusive thoughts. Persons engaging in self-harm may cut or burn themselves or repeatedly hit themselves or bang their heads against a wall 

Self-harm behaviors also encompass those who participate in abuses related to food. This could include intentional starvation because an individual deems themselves unworthy of food. It could also involve those who binge eat or make themselves throw up after every meal.

While self-harm and self-medication aren’t considered to be suicide attempts, they are a cry for help. Anyone seen engaging in self-harm and self-medicating should get prompt help before the problem gets worse later on.

Effects Of Poor Mental Health On Quality Of Life

Those dealing with poor mental health also report having a low quality of life. Their mental health prevents them from doing many of their daily tasks, leading to a decline in self-sufficiency, if not altogether. They suffer from low self-confidence and low self-esteem as a result of this.

They struggle with isolation and feel like they are not a worthy or contributing part of society. They feel alienated and apathetic. Hobbies and activities they once loved hold no interest for them anymore and relationships dwindle.

Because of this, their level of activity is compromised and they will achieve very little in the way of even the most basic tasks of hygiene and feeding themselves. Their diet is often junk food as they will have no energy or interest level in cooking or shopping for groceries. They cease regular bathing.

mental health

They will not wash their clothes or their dishes. They will not attempt to clean up their living space or throw away any garbage around them. Instead, it will just pile up over time and cause an even unhealthier environment leading to mold growths and bugs. 

A person suffering from depression won’t change their clothing day-to-day, they will stay in the same outfit because it is comfortable and they have no plans to go anywhere.

Changing clothes will only mean more laundry to do and is too much of a hassle for someone who has no social life. They view life as pointless and meaningless anyway. 

Individuals with poor mental health will not wash or brush their hair, causing it to become greasy, matted, and tangled. They will seldom brush their teeth because they are too sad to see the point, everything feels hopeless and futile. They don’t care if they smell and won’t even wear deodorant.

Health-Related Quality Of Life (HRQOL)

The CDC developed a way to measure and properly assess the HRQOL for national and state levels. They created four core questions to ask that help to identify an individual’s HRQOL. 

  • Question 1: Would you say that, in general, your health is excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?
  • Question 2: Now thinking about your physical health, which includes physical illness and injury, for how many days during the past 30 days was your physical health not good?
  • Question 3: Now thinking about your mental health, which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, for how many days during the past 30 days was your mental health not good?
  • Question 4: During the past 30 days, for about how many days did poor physical or mental health keep you from doing your usual activities, such as self-care, work, or recreation?

These questions have laid the groundwork for effectively determining and analyzing the HRQOL in an individual, so much so that they have been incorporated into the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

The HRQOL can be combined with the CDC’s Unhealthy Days Index to get the most comprehensive picture of a person’s well-being and quality of life.

The Healthy Days measure has been useful at identifying health discrepancies, monitoring population trends, and building a health metric that complies with the population health criteria for the World Health Organization.

Quality of Life Scale

The Flanagan Quality of Life Scale consists of 15-16 items covering five different areas. Certain versions of the Flanagan Quality of Life Scale include a 16th item not included in the original version.

This item is in regard to “Independence, doing it for yourself” which was added later on to establish an individual’s ability to care for themselves and retain their independence.

The Quality of Life Scale is a tool for the evaluation of a person’s life. The five areas of consideration are:

In a sample questionnaire, an individual is presented with the 16 topics that will help to assess the level of importance and satisfaction in the individual’s quality of life.

Each item is scored on a scale from one to seven, with seven being the highest level and one being the lowest. The questionnaire can be done in an interview format or with the person giving their own self-assessment.

The assessment is scored by totaling the 16 topics to create a final overall score. Scores can range from 16 total points to 112.

A higher score indicates a higher quality of life while a lower score indicates a lower quality of life. The average score averages around 90 for healthy populations.

How To Improve Quality Of Life

For those with lower quality of life scores, life changes should be made to help improve their quality of life. 

A healthier diet, a regular exercise regimen, a better sleep schedule, and a regular social life can improve one’s quality of life. Taking part in local community projects aid in the sense of accomplishment and the sense of belonging.

For more serious health issues and underlying causes, it is necessary to find the appropriate treatments and therapies to fully address the factors that contribute to poor mental health and low quality of life scores. 

Treatment centers for drug and alcohol dependency get to the root of why an individual needs to self-medicate with illicit substances and how to quit. Treatment centers can also provide in-patient or outpatient therapy for those with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. 

Counseling or therapy allows for an individual to talk through the stressors and their causes. Medications may need to be prescribed to balance and boost mood. When a person’s head is clearer and less burdened by intrusive thoughts, they can live their life again and improve their quality of life.

Instead of hiding behind their problems, individuals face them head-on. They receive support and coping tools to assist them with life’s challenges so they can get back to doing the things they love again.  

When you understand ‘the whys’ you can better understand how to fix the problem in order to live a more fulfilling life with an improved quality of life.

Improve Your Quality Of Life With First Light Recovery

While there may not be much you can do to improve some of the external factors that affect your quality of life, you can do something about the internal impacts on your mental health. 

First Light Recovery in Orange County will help you identify the areas of your life that are most affecting your mental health. We specialize in social rehabilitation for individuals struggling with mild, moderate, and chronic mental health issues from trauma, anxiety, depression, and more on a personal level.

Take the first step now and contact First Light Recovery to get started on the path to better mental health today.