A recent study conducted by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in collaboration with the University of Cambridge’s Biomedical Research Centre, has revealed that psychiatric patients are almost twice as likely to have multiple physical ailments (multimorbidity).
The aim of the study was to assess the strength of the association between Severe Mental Illness (SMI) and physical multimorbidity.
According to the researchers, the study selection and analysis were conducted by systematically searching PubMed/Medline, Scopus, Embase, Web of Science, PsycINFO and the behavioural sciences collection databases, from inception to 31 January 2023 for studies that investigated the association between SMI and physical multimorbidity.
Humans of any age either clinically diagnosed and/or currently receiving treatment for SMI, were eligible. Data from studies selected for inclusion were converted into ORs, with a subsequent meta-analysis conducted.
It was recorded that the study was conducted with 19 studies with a total of 194 123 patients with SMI with different diagnoses and drawn from the general population.
The pooled OR (Odds Ratio) for physical multimorbidity in people with SMI versus those without SMI was 1.84 (95% CI 1.33 to 2.54), with the analysis indicating a high level of heterogeneity (98.38%). The researchers found that people with SMI were 1.84 times more likely to report physical multimorbidity than the control group.
The research showed that the current evidence highlights the link between SMI and physical multimorbidity.
Lead author Professor Lee Smith, who specializes in Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), emphasizes the profound impact of mental health.
According to Lee Smith, “Mental health underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in. It is evident from our research that individuals with serious mental illness are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing physical multimorbidity.”
Professor Smith remarks, “This complex relationship between serious 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.”
In the light of these findings, Professor Smith advocates for a holistic approach to healthcare.
“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 serious mental illness and physical multimorbidity.”