Mental ill health affects most people at some point in their lives and is a leading cause of illness for people in the UK. The links between physical and mental ill health, which go both ways, are often overlooked. People with mental illness are less likely to take part in or remain in usual types of research studies about physical or mental health, or they are actively excluded. This means that much of what we know about mental illness is not based on the very people who are worst affected.
Despite this, the UK has some of the best data in the world for looking at how to prevent mental illness and maintain or improve people’s mental health. Real-world data, often collected routinely as people go about their everyday lives, may be very helpful to overcome these problems. We should use it more, but at the moment these data sets are hard to find, applying to use them is tedious, and using them can be hard work. People working on physical health (like heart disease) and mental health also tend to work apart, without looking at the links or sharing their work.