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Physical health of people with mental illness

RANZCP physical health consensus statement (2017) [PDF; 2.2MB]

Aims to inform the development of policy and guidelines for the treatment, management and monitoring of the physical health of people with an enduring psychotic illness.

Key facts

  • The poor physical health and disparity in health outcomes experienced by people with mental illness compared with the general population has been identified as a priority in recent Australian and New Zealand Government health initiatives.
  • Mortality rates are higher in people with a mental illness than those in the general population, with this gap largely attributable to poor physical health, moreover there is evidence that this gap is widening.
  • Many of these physical health conditions could be prevented or treated if appropriate services and treatments were made accessible early on in the individual’s care.
  • Mental illness can overshadow the clinical awareness of many comorbid physical health risks with symptoms of poor physical health being incorrectly attributed to symptoms of the individual’s mental illness.
  • Psychiatrists play a key role in integrating mental and physical health care. As medical practitioners, psychiatrists have expertise in the diagnosis and management of complex mental health conditions and are well placed to work collaboratively across health-care settings to ensure that symptoms of poor physical health are appropriately diagnosed, treated and monitored.

Key figures

  • The high rates of poor physical health of people with mental illness are similar in both Australia and New Zealand.
  • A recent Australian report shows that people living with severe mental illness are:
    • likely to die between 14 and 23 years earlier than the general population
    • six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease
    • four times more likely to die from respiratory disease
    • five times more likely to smoke.

National Mental Health Commission. Equally Well Consensus Statement: Improving the physical health and wellbeing of people living with mental illness in Australia. Sydney NHMC, 2016.

RANZCP physical health advocacy campaign

The RANZCP recognises both the importance of addressing the inequalities that lead to and arise from poor physical health in mental illnesses and its role in providing clinical leadership, training and advocating for improvements in this area.

As part of the physical health advocacy campaign the RANZCP collated a number of reports examining the barriers to health care for people with mental and physical illnesses, and what can be done to reduce these barriers.

Physical health resources for psychiatrists and trainees

The RANZCP has collated the following resources for psychiatrists and trainees for the treatment, management and monitoring of physical health of people with mental illness.

Assessment and screening tools

Resources for managing physical health

Consensus statements and other resources

Learnit online

Community resources

Your say

To suggest a resource for inclusion email policy@ranzcp.org. All suggested resources will be reviewed by the RANZCP Committee for Evidence-Based Practice to ensure their suitability.