The Impact of Lifestyle Factors on the Physical Health of People with a Mental Illness: a Brief Review


Susanne Stanley, Jonathan Laugharne

International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

April 2014, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 275-281




People with a mental illness are much more likely to experience poor physical health when compared to the general population, showing a higher propensity to develop the metabolic syndrome. Past focus has predominantly been upon individuals treated with antipsychotics, yet poor physical health is occurring across diagnoses.


The purpose of this paper is to draw attention to the major factors within the domain of lifestyle in order to support the need for more detailed and rigorous physical health assessment and ongoing monitoring for people with a mental illness.


This paper reviews existing evidence relating to lifestyle factors such as low exercise levels, poor diet and nutrition, high cholesterol levels, tobacco smoking and poor dental care, contributing to poor physical health such as a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. An integrative review was conducted from a multi-disciplinary search of online databases and journals, focusing upon mental illness and lifestyle issues predominant in the literature.


The findings reviewed here suggest that greater attention should be paid to the physical health assessment and ongoing monitoring of all people with mental health disorders so that preventable illness does not result in higher levels of morbidity and mortality for this disadvantaged population.


Early identification aids preventive interventions and assists clinicians and mental health staff to more effectively treat emergent physical health problems.