Background: People with severe mental illness (SMI) have a lower life expectancy due in part to a higher prevalence of cardiac and metabolic disease. Less is known of the prevalence of respiratory disease in this group.
Aims: This cross-sectional, observational study aimed to assess the prevalence of symptoms associated with respiratory disease in patients admitted to an inpatient mental health unit.
Methods: A convenience sample of 82 inpatients had a structured interview and questionnaire completed. The questionnaire included self-reported diagnoses of common diseases and screening questions designed to detect respiratory disease and sleep disordered breathing. Targeted spirometry was performed on the basis of symptoms and smoking status.
Results: Patients reported high rates of respiratory symptoms, including wheezing (38%) and dyspnoea (44%); 52% of patients reported daily tobacco use. Productive cough was significantly associated with tobacco use (P < 0.005). Ten patients (18%) had spirometry consistent with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) of whom six did not have a formal diagnosis of COPD previously.
Conclusions: People with SMI have high rates of respiratory symptoms with a high prevalence of COPD on spirometry. Half of the COPD cases were not previously diagnosed, suggesting a hidden burden of respiratory disease in patients with SMI.
Keywords: COPD; OSA; mental illness; respiratory illness; sleep apnoea.
© 2017 Royal Australasian College of Physicians.