17 July 2019

Blueprint: protecting the physical health of people with mental ill-health

Blueprint: protecting the physical health of people with mental ill-health

Orygen researchers have co-authored an international blueprint for protecting the physical health of people with mental ill-health.

The Lancet Psychiatry Commission has highlighted physical health disparities among people with mental ill-health said Professor Patrick McGorry, executive director of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.

“Research shows that people with mental ill-health have an increased risk of physical disease, reduced life expectancy and reduced access to adequate health care,” Professor McGorry said.

“That increases the personal, social, and economic burden of mental ill-health across the lifespan.”

Orygen researchers Dr Brian O’Donoghue, Professor Alison Yung and Professor Eóin Killackey were also among the authors of the report which identified the issues and actions for improving physical health outcomes outlined in figure 1.

Summarising almost 100 peer-reviewed papers, the report found that mental illnesses were associated with a risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases that was 1.4–2 times higher than in the general population (see table 1).

Behavioural risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases were also found to be elevated in populations experiencing mental ill-health.

“Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, sleep disturbance, physical inactivity, and dietary risks are increased for a broad range of diagnoses, across various economic settings, and from illness onset,” the report stated.

The blueprint stressed the importance of developing an evidence-based, preventive, and multidisciplinary approach to mental health care.

“We propose that future lifestyle interventions in mental health care must adopt the core principles of the Diabetes Prevention Program by partnering with appropriately trained physical health professionals, and by providing sufficient access to supervised exercise services,” the report said.

“Similarly, lifestyle interventions for people with mental illness should be available pre-emptively to protect metabolic health from the point of the first presentation of illness.”

The report’s proposed model of collaborative care for people with physical and mental comorbidities is outlined below (figure 2).

For more information, visit the Lancet Commission website.


Figure 1:
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Figure 2:
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Table 1:
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