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General physical health advice for people with serious mental illness

  • Review
  • Intervention




There is currently much focus on provision of general physical health advice to people with serious mental illness and there has been increasing pressure for services to take responsibility for providing this.


To assess the effects of general physical health advice as a means of reducing morbidity, mortality and improving or maintaining quality of life in people with serious mental illness.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group Trials Register (November 2009) which is based on regular searches of CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE and PsycINFO.

We updated this search October 2012 and added 43 new trials to the awaiting classification section.

Selection criteria

All randomised clinical trials focusing on general physical health advice.

Data collection and analysis

We extracted data independently. For binary outcomes we calculated risk ratio (RR) and its 95% confidence interval (CI), on an intention-to-treat basis. For continuous data we estimated mean difference (MD) between groups and its 95% CI. We employed a random-effects model for analyses.

Main results

For the comparison of physical healthcare advice versus standard care we identified five studies (total n = 884) of limited quality. For measures of quality of life one trial found no difference (n = 54, 1 RCT, MD Lehman scale 0.00 CI -0.67 to 0.67) but another did (n = 407, 1 RCT, MD Quality of Life Medical Outcomes Scale - mental component 3.7 CI 1.7 to 5.6). There was no difference between groups for the outcome of death (n = 407, 1 RCT, RR 1.3 CI 0.3 to 6.0), for the outcome of uptake of ill-health prevention services, one study found percentages significantly greater in the advice group (n = 363, 1 RCT, MD 36.9 CI 33.1 to 40.7). Economic data were equivocal. Attrition was large (> 30%) but similar for both groups (n = 884, 5 RCTs, RR 1.18 CI 0.97 to 1.43). Comparisons of one type of physical healthcare advice with another were grossly underpowered and equivocal.

Authors' conclusions

General physical health could lead to people with serious mental illness accessing more health services which, in turn, could mean they see longer term benefits such as reduced mortality or morbidity. On the other hand it is possible clinicians are expending much effort, time and financial expenditure on giving ineffective advice. This is an important area for good research reporting outcome of interest to carers and people with serious illnesses as well as researchers and fundholders.

Note: the 43 citations in the awaiting classification section of the review may alter the conclusions of the review once assessed.

Plain language summary

General physical health care advice for people with serious mental illness

People with serious mental illness have worse physical health than the general population. This review looks at whether giving advice about general physical health has any effect on the physical health and quality of life of people with serious mental illness.