People with severe mental illnesses (e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) are 2-4 times more likely to participate in unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, having an unhealthy diet, and drinking too much alcohol. This leads to an increase in the likelihood of long-term physical illnesses, potentially reducing their lifespan by 10-20 years.
In collaboration with colleagues from the University of York, researchers from the Behavioural Science Consortium based at the University of Manchester centre for Health Psychology, have won a bid from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to explore how these risks can be reduced. The project aims to review which interventions change behaviours effectively in people with severe mental illnesses. To explore whether changing multiple behaviours at once is better than focusing on a single behaviour, and to understand what aspect of an intervention is most effective. What interventions people with severe mental illnesses find helpful, and how they would improve these interventions shall also be explored.
To answer these questions the team will use statistical techniques to compare the effectiveness of multiple risk behaviour interventions with single behaviour interventions. A synthesis shall be conducted to bring together research on the experiences of people with severe mental illnesses and staff changing risk behaviours. Throughout this research the team shall work with service users with experiences of severe mental illnesses and professionals with expertise in providing mental and physical healthcare for people with severe mental illnesses.
The results of this research will then be used to guide NHS services to help people with severe mental illnesses to improve their physical health. This will in turn lead to people with severe mental illnesses having healthier lifestyles, which will reduce their risk of long-term physical illness.