Behavioral Health Versus Mental Health

Published At: 27 November 2019 , 10:48 AM

Behavioral health defines the connection between behavioral health and mental health and well-being of the body, mind, and spirit. This would include how behaviors like eating habits, drinking or exercising influence physical or mental health.

However, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, behavioral health “almost completely referred to behaviors that prevent illness or that improve health,” says the MEHAF. Later, the term began to include behaviors that help people survive the disease. Most recently, behavioral health incorporated mental health.

Additional definitions for behavioral health demonstrate how wide-reaching the term is.

As a discipline, behavioral health refers to mental health, psychiatric, marriage and family counseling, and habits treatment, and it includes services given by social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, neurologists and physicians, the National Business Group on Health says. Behavioral health also involves both mental health and substance usage, encompassing a continuum of prevention, treatment, intervention, and recovery support services.

Behavioral Health vs Mental Health

When differentiating between behavioral health and mental health, it is important to identify that behavioral health is a blanket term that includes mental health. Behavioral health looks at how behaviors influence someone’s health — physical and mental.

This results in a remarkable difference between behavioral health and mental health. For instance, a behavioral health professional might view behaviors that may have provided a person’s obesity. This is an issue that primarily strikes someone’s physical health. Some behavioral health topics and issues do not fall into the classification of mental health.

On the other hand, mental health is incorporated into behavioral health. As a result, people who have mental health issues can help from behavioral health principles. 


For decades, behavioral health has been an afterthought. An estimated 44 million adults live with a mental disorder, yet nearly 60% don’t take treatment in a given year. There’s a developing body of proof as well that directly links behavioral and physical health. The tide appears to be turning, however, as policymakers and providers like recognizing the need to not only allocate more sources to behavioral health and substance misuse prevention but also redesign care principles to treat the whole patient. In this particular report, Modern Healthcare examines national and local applications aimed at fixing the crisis. Our series examines the link between behavioral health and mental health; assesses the agreement of the 21st Century Cures Act, and outlines organizations creating a difference on the front lines.

Each year, the nation’s health system pays billions of dollars trying to treat, handle and prevent an array of avoidable diseases that only last to grow in prevalence.

Nearly two-thirds of all losses annually are attributable to chronic situations. Patients with chronic conditions account for 81% of all hospital admissions, 91% of all medicines filled and 76% of all physician appointments. Roughly 86% of the $2.9 trillion spent on healthcare in 2013 was linked to chronic infection.

More than 190 million Americans—58% of the community—have at least one chronic state, while more than 30 million have three or more. Projections show that the number of people living with various chronic illnesses will more than double by 2050 to 83 million if current courses continue.

Yet the attempt to stem or even invert the rising numbers of Americans who produce chronic illness has fallen short.

It’s a dilemma the healthcare system survives mostly unaware to effectively address. Years of study and initiatives centered on prevention and developing healthier habits have missed the mark because they fail to undertake arguably the single greatest contributor to the chronic disease pandemic—mental illness.

For years, behavioral health was mostly ignored when it came to determining the circumstances involved in physical health. Primary-care physicians traditionally shied away from studying emotional or mental health as a root problem of chronic diseases. Yet, data show that the two are closely associated.