Life expectancy of severely mentally ill dramatically reduced due to poor physical health

Mar 21, 2011

Physical ill-health is rife among the severely mentally ill in Britain, according to new research published today by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

In a study of almost 800 patients with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia and , two-thirds were found to be overweight or obese, and a disproportionate number suffered from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol.

The results of the two-year project in Kent are published today in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Psychiatry.

During the study, the researchers introduced a Wellbeing Support Programme and trained more than 200 mental health nurses in its use. The of 782 patients (mostly white, male and in their late 30s) was screened as part of the programme and appropriate intervention offered. The findings of the screening programme revealed:

  • Inactivity, poor diet, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption were the norm
  • Obesity was prevalent with 66 per cent having a BMI greater than 25
  • Thirty-four per cent of patients were suffering from
  • Fifty-two per cent had abnormally high cholesterol levels
  • A surprisingly high proportion were being prescribed atypical antipsychotic drugs associated with weight gain
Life expectancy for people with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia is reduced by up to 25 years. The major cause of death is not suicide, as many practitioners believe, but cardiovascular disease. While clinicians are well-practised at assessing the risk of self-harm, they fail to assess the risk of cardio-vascular disease.

"Mental health nurses do a tough job and are compassionate and highly committed. But they do not tend to be skilled at managing the physical health of their patients and they often don't lead entirely healthy lifestyles themselves," said lead author Prof Richard Gray of UEA's School of Nursing and Midwifery.

"Since mental health workers tend to have sustained one-to-one relationships with their patients over many years, those who smoke, have a and fail to take regular exercise are having a negative influence on the lives of already vulnerable people. We urgently need to train our mental health workers to lead by example and intervene if their patients' physical health is deteriorating."

Separate research conducted by Prof Gray has shown that the incidence of smoking among mental health workers is higher than in the general population and nurses who smoke are less likely to promote smoking cessation in their patients.

Prof Gray added: "The latest NICE schizophrenia guidelines have located the responsibility for physical health care of severely mentally ill patients with their GPs. All health professionals have a duty to promote health in the patients they treat. Government guidelines must reflect the shared responsibility all health care professionals have to promote health in one of the most marginalized and socially excluded groups in our society."

Explore further: Children's mental health key to future employment prospects

Provided by University of East Anglia

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Schizophrenics more likely to suffer from ruptured appendix

Nov 15, 2007

People with mental illness suffer more than just psychological problems. People with schizophrenia are more likely to suffer from ruptured appendix than others, according to research published in the online open access journal, ...

Schizophrenia: Regular exercise guidelines still apply

May 11, 2010

Regular exercise can play an important a role in improving the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals with schizophrenia, according to a review published in The Cochrane Library. Following a systematic review of the ...

Recommended for you

"Body recognition" compares with fingerprint ID

19 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—University of Adelaide forensic anatomy researchers are making advances in the use of "body recognition" for criminal and missing persons cases, to help with identification when a face ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JOHNSPEAKS
not rated yet Mar 21, 2011
As an expert in observing and interacting with thousands of mental health clients with -Empathy- you get a realistic picture of clients health? The above survey is correct in many of its opinions but it does not address the fact that antipsychotic drugs and their side effects are the real reason for the health issues of these clients? The actual mental disorder by itself does not cause these health issues? The other false premise is that suicide is not the major cause of death in mental health clients you did not include passive suicide in your factual report???

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.