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Mental and physical health links a global issue

Wednesday July 17th, 2019

Action is needed on the physical health inequalities faced by people with mental illness, according to a major global study published today.

The report is based on research by more than 30 international experts, led by researchers from Western Sydney University, Australia.

The work had four aims: to establish the extent of physical health disparities in people with mental illness, to highlight key modifiable factors that drive this poorer health, to outline health policy and clinical service changes needed, and to identify promising areas for future research.

Published today (17 July) in The Lancet Psychiatry the report describes the current situation around the world.

The physical conditions linked to mental illnesses include obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, together producing an average 20 year reduction in life expectancy.

The top modifiable risk factors include smoking, poor sleep, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, the side effects of many psychiatric medications, and barriers to accessing physical health care.

Chair of the commission, Dr Joseph Firth of Western Sydney University, said: "The disparities in physical health outcomes for people with mental illness are currently regarded as a human rights scandal.

"Patients with serious mental illness are two to three times as likely to have obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases - which impact on quality of life and recovery. These comorbidities begin to arise early on and affect people with mental illness across the entire lifespan.

“Clearly, protecting the physical health of people with mental illness should be considered an international priority for reducing the personal, social and economic burden of these conditions."

The report calls for early intervention, multidisciplinary treatments, and better integration of physical and mental health care.

Firth, J. et al. The Lancet Psychiatry Commission: A Blueprint for Protecting Physical Health in People with Mental Illness. The Lancet Psychiatry 17 July 2019 doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30132-4

Tags: Australia | General Health | Mental Health | World Health

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