The Connection Between Mental Health and Physical Well-being

Summary: A groundbreaking study has revealed a significant connection between severe mental health issues and physical multimorbidity. The findings, based on an analysis of data from close to 200,000 psychiatric patients, point to a nearly two-fold increased likelihood of suffering from chronic physical conditions among those with mental disorders.

This correlation underscores the necessity for a comprehensive treatment approach to address the multitude of health challenges confronted by psychiatric patients.

Key Facts:

  1. Those with severe mental illnesses are 1.84 times more prone to physical multimorbidity.
  2. Psychiatric patients often experience a range of physical conditions including metabolic and respiratory diseases, as well as cancer.
  3. Globally, 71% of individuals with psychosis do not receive required mental health services, highlighting a significant treatment gap.

Source: Anglia Ruskin University

The extensive research, led by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in collaboration with the University of Cambridge’s Biomedical Research Centre, involved a thorough analysis of 19 different studies encompassing data from 194,123 psychiatric patients across the world compared to 7,660,590 individuals in control groups.

Multimorbidity refers to individuals affected by any combination of chronic disease with at least one other physical health condition. According to the research, the likelihood of psychiatric patients reporting multimorbidity is 1.84 times higher than the control group.

Notably, people with severe mental health issues also report an array of physical conditions such as metabolic diseases, hypertension, epilepsy, respiratory, vascular, kidney and gastrointestinal diseases, and cancer.

In 2019, almost one billion individuals were living with a mental disorder, positioning it as a leading cause of disability globally. Furthermore, one in four people in England experiences a mental health problem each year.

Previous research has concluded that a large percentage of those in need of mental health services lack access to effective, affordable, and quality mental healthcare, especially in low-income nations.

For example, 71% of individuals with psychosis worldwide do not receive necessary mental health services, highlighting a significant disparity between high-income and low-income countries.

Lead author Lee Smith, Professor of Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), emphasized, “It is evident from our research that individuals with severe mental illness are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing physical multimorbidity. This intricate relationship between severe mental illness and physical multimorbidity has far-reaching implications.”

Smith further added, “A holistic approach is urgently needed to improve the physical, mental, and social outcomes of individuals dealing with severe mental illness and physical multimorbidity.”

About this mental health research news

Author: Jamie Forsyth
Source: Anglia Ruskin University
Contact: Jamie Forsyth – Anglia Ruskin University
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Relationship between severe mental illness and physical multimorbidity: a meta-analysis and call for action” by Lee Smith et al. BMJ Mental Health


Relationship between severe mental illness and physical multimorbidity: a meta-analysis and call for action


People with severe mental illness (SMI) have a higher prevalence of several chronic physical health conditions, and the prevalence of physical multimorbidity is expected to rise. The aim of this study was to assess the strength of the association between SMI and physical multimorbidity.

Study selection and analysis

We systematically searched PubMed/Medline, Scopus, Embase, Web of Science, PsycINFO and the behavioural sciences collection databases, from inception to 31 January 2023, for studies that investigated the association between SMI and physical multimorbidity. Humans of any age either clinically diagnosed and/or currently receiving treatment for SMI, specified as schizophrenia (and related psychotic disorders), bipolar disorder and psychotic depression, were eligible. Data from studies selected for inclusion were converted into ORs, with a subsequent meta-analysis conducted.


We included 19 studies with a total of 194,123 patients with SMI with different diagnoses and drawn from the general population. The pooled OR for physical multimorbidity in people with versus without SMI was 1.84 (95% CI 1.33 to 2.54), with the analysis indicating a high level of heterogeneity (98.38%). The other 15 studies included in the systematic review for which it was not possible to conduct a meta-analysis showed strong associations between SMI and physical multimorbidity.


The current evidence highlights the link between SMI and physical multimorbidity. A multidisciplinary approach is now urgent to develop the best models of services tailored to patients with SMI with physical multimorbidities to improve physical, mental and social outcomes.

PROSPERO registration number



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