Increased prevalence of chronic physical health disorders in Australians with diagnosed mental illness

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2012 Oct;36(5):483-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2012.00916.x.


Objective: To compare chronic physical health disorder prevalence amongst Australian adults with and without mental illness.

Method: Total n=1,716 participants (58% female) with a mean age of 52 ± 13 years (range: 18 to 89 years) completed an online survey of Australian adults in 2010. Outcome measures including prevalence of chronic physical conditions and self-reported body mass index (BMI) in n=387 (23%) with a self-reported mental illness diagnosis were compared to respondents without mental illness.

Results: A significantly higher proportion of participants with mental illness were obese (BMI ≥ 30; 31 vs 24%, p=0.005). Adjusted odds ratios (OR) for coronary heart disease, diabetes, chronic bronchitis or emphysema, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and food allergies or intolerances (OR range: 1.54-3.19) demonstrated that chronic physical disorders were significantly more common in participants with a mental illness.

Conclusion: Australian adults with a diagnosis for mental illness have a significantly increased likelihood of demonstrating chronic physical health disorders compared to persons without mental illness.

Implications: Health professionals must be alert to the increased likelihood of comorbid chronic physical disorders in persons with a mental illness and should consider the adoption of holistic approaches when treating those with either a mental or physical illness.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult