NOV 12, 2023 3:05 PM PST

Severe Mental Illness Linked to More Physical Health Problems

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Individuals with severe mental illness are almost twice as likely to report physical health issues than those without. The corresponding study was published in BMJ Mental Health

Studies show that people with mental health conditions have an increased risk of physical disease, including chronic health conditions such as HIV, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal disorders. 

Multimorbidity occurs when a person has a combination of chronic disease and at least one other acute or chronic physical health condition. The prevalence of physical multimorbidity is expected to rise as the population ages and as exposure to risk factors for chronic conditions increases. In the current study, researchers investigated the relationship between severe mental health illness and physical multimorbidity. 

To do so, they analyzed 19 studies with a total of 194,123 patients with severe mental health illness, defined as schizophrenia and related conditions, bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression. Their analysis also included 7, 660, 590 individuals in control groups. 

Ultimately, the researchers found that patients with severe mental health conditions were 1.84 times more likely than control groups to report physical multimorbidity. Physical issues included metabolic conditions, hypertension, epilepsy, cancer and epilepsy, respiratory, vascular, kidney and gastrointestinal conditions. 

Lead author Lee Smith, Professor of Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said in a press release: "This complex relationship between severe mental illness and physical multimorbidity has far-reaching implications, including decreased treatment compliance, increased risk of treatment failure, increased treatment costs, relapsing disease, worsening prognosis, and reduced life expectancy.”

"Poor clinical management of physical comorbidities in people with mental disorders exacerbates the issue, leading to an increased burden on individuals, their communities, and healthcare systems. A holistic approach is urgently needed to improve the physical, mental, and social outcomes of individuals dealing with severe mental illness and physical multimorbidity,” he added. 


Sources: Science DailyBMJ Mental Health

About the Author
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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