Background: Severe mental illnesses (SMI) may be independently associated with cardiovascular risk factors and the metabolic syndrome. We aimed to systematically assess studies that compared diabetes, dyslipidaemia, hypertension and metabolic syndrome in people with and without SMI.
Methods: We systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL & PsycINFO. We hand searched reference lists of key articles. We employed three search main themes: SMI, cardiovascular disease, and each cardiovascular risk factor. We selected cross-sectional, case control, cohort or intervention studies comparing one or more risk factor in both SMI and a reference group. We excluded studies without any reference group. We extracted data on: study design, cardiovascular risk factor(s) and their measurement, diagnosis of SMI, study setting, sampling method, nature of comparison group and data on key risk factors.
Results: Of 14592 citations, 134 papers met criteria and 36 were finally included. 26 reported on diabetes, 12 hypertension, 11 dyslipidaemia, and 4 metabolic syndrome. Most studies were cross sectional, small and several lacked comparison data suitable for extraction. Meta-analysis was possible for diabetes, cholesterol and hypertension; revealing a pooled risk ratio of 1.70 (1.21 to 2.37) for diabetes and 1.11 (0.91 to 1.35) of hypertension. Restricting SMI to schizophreniform illnesses yielded a pooled risk ratio for diabetes of 1.87 (1.68 to 2.09). Total cholesterol was not higher in people with SMI (Standardized Mean Difference -0.10 (-0.55 to 0.36)) and there were inconsistent data on HDL, LDL and triglycerides with some, but not all, reporting lower levels of HDL cholesterol and raised triglyceride levels. Metabolic syndrome appeared more common in SMI.
Conclusion: Diabetes (but not hypertension) is more common in SMI. Data on other risk factors were limited by poor quality or inconsistent research findings, but a small number of studies show greater prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in SMI.