The physical health of the seriously mentally ill: an overview of the literature

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2012 Sep;19(7):638-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2011.01831.x. Epub 2011 Oct 18.


Despite the wealth of literature which attests to the relationship between serious mental illness (SMI) and physical ill health, the provision of optimum physical health care for mental health service users remains a challenge. In England the Department of Health has identified the evident health inequalities for people with SMI as a priority area for health improvement, publishing numerous policy directives aimed at addressing these inequalities. However, this is a highly complex process and little is known about why the rhetoric of holistic health care has proved unattainable thus far. In this paper we present an informed commentary of the contemporary literature with the aim of offering a more comprehensive understanding of the health inequalities faced by people with SMI. We searched relevant databases for publications related to: the causes of poor physical health among the mentally ill, strategies to address these health needs and the impact which professional education, culture and services structure has on this facet of service delivery. This enabled us to identify potential strategies that can be adopted by health care practitioners wishing to improve the health of this vulnerable group, and by educationalists to advance professionals' knowledge of this important and ostensibly neglected area.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Promotion
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy