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BACKGROUND: People with serious mental illness are at an increased risk of physical ill health. Mortality rates are around twice those of the general population with higher levels of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, diabetes, and respiratory illness. Although genetics may have a role in the physical health problems of these patients, lifestyle and environmental factors such as smoking, obesity, poor diet, and low levels of physical activity play a prominent part. METHODS: A qualitative grounded theory approach was used to understand the problems experienced by these individuals when asked to attend a healthy living programme. Three main areas were explored: the influence of potential barriers, health problems, and general attitudes towards healthy living. RESULTS: Thirteen patients were interviewed during the study. Many did not recall receiving an initial invitation letter to the programme. Several believed that there was no necessity to attend as they had already had recent routine health checks by their general practitioner. The patients' current level of mental and physical health was important with symptoms such as depression, anxiety or arthritis affecting interest in the programme. Patients described that they found smoking enjoyable or calming in its effect. Dietary intake was determined by taste or gaining pleasure in eating certain types of food. Several lessons were learnt during this research that may aid future research and practice. Participation seemed to be better if the approach was first made by the patient's own community keyworker. This contact may have provided a greater opportunity to explain the purpose and importance of the programme. Alternative appointments should be considered when certain patients are in better physical and mental health. Healthy living programmes need to be flexible and adaptive to individual patient needs. Assistance from their community worker may help engagement. Simple measures may improve participation and reduce potential barriers. CONCLUSION: These findings highlighted some of the problems encountered by patients when attempting to participate in a healthy living programme. These results may be useful when implementing future healthy living interventions for patients with serious mental disorders.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Psychiatry

Publication Date





Female, Health Behavior, Health Promotion, Health Status, Humans, Life Style, Male, Mental Disorders, Mentally Ill Persons, Middle Aged, Obesity, Qualitative Research, Smoking