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Addressing the physical health needs of those with severe mental illness has been shown to improve outcomes, says Dr David Yeomans.
People with severe mental illness (SMI) such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are at higher-than-average risk of physical ill health and die earlier than the general population from natural causes.
The fatal conditions include cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic disorders1.
Although death by suicide in schizophrenia has received much-needed attention, death from CVD is far commoner, accounting for up to 75 per cent of deaths2.
The causes of physical health problems include factors associated with mental illness and its treatment, poverty, poor housing, higher rates of smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise3-5.
Physical health overlooked
Despite the high rates of physical health problems, mental health service users report that healthcare workers overlook their physical health needs6.
Service users would like mental health practitioners to do more for their physical health.
SMI charity Rethink interviewed 2,998 mental health service users, more than half of whom lived with a diagnosed SMI7. Nearly one third said regular physical health checks were in their top three priorities for improving services.
Mental health practitioners may feel unable to provide physical health input. Also there may be a feeling that people with mental health problems will not be interested in …