The Potential Impact of a Public Health Approach to Improving the Physical Health of People Living with Mental Illness

Roberts, Russell, Johnson, Caroline, Hopwood, Malcolm, Firth, Joseph, Jackson, Kate, Sara, Grant, Allan, John, Calder, Rosemary, and Manger, Sam (2022) The Potential Impact of a Public Health Approach to Improving the Physical Health of People Living with Mental Illness. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19 (18). 11746.

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With already wide disparities in physical health and life expectancy, COVID-19 presents people with mental illness with additional threats to their health: decreased access to health services, increased social isolation, and increased socio-economic disadvantage. Each of these factors has exacerbated the risk of poor health and early death for people with mental illness post-COVID-19. Unless effective primary care and preventative health responses are implemented, the physical illness epidemic for this group will increase post the COVID-19 pandemic. This perspective paper briefly reviews the literature on the impact of COVID-19 on service access, social isolation, and social disadvantage and their combined impact on physical health, particularly cancer, respiratory diseases, heart disease, smoking, and infectious diseases. The much-overlooked role of poor physical health on suicidality is also discussed. The potential impact of public health interventions is modelled based on Australian incidence data and current research on the percentage of early deaths of people living with mental illnesses that are preventable. Building on the lessons arising from services’ response to COVID-19, such as the importance of ensuring access to preventive, screening, and primary care services, priority recommendations for consideration by public health practitioners and policymakers are presented.

Item ID: 76435
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1660-4601
Keywords: cancer, comorbidity, COVID-19, CVD, mental health, physical health, respiratory disease, smoking, vaccination
Copyright Information: © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2023 23:52
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4206 Public health > 420602 Health equity @ 30%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4206 Public health > 420605 Preventative health care @ 40%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420313 Mental health services @ 30%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200409 Mental health @ 100%
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