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Keywords:

  • comorbid;
  • mental illness;
  • physical health;
  • young adults

ABSTRACT

Physical health in people with mental illness is often compromised. Chronic physical conditions and disease risk factors occur at higher rates than in the general population. Although substantial research exists regarding mental–physical comorbidities in middle to older-aged adults and mental illness consequential to childhood physical illness, research addressing physical health in young people/emerging adults of 16–24 years with primary mental illnesses is minimal. Health problems often track from youth to adulthood, indicating a need to better recognize and understand the overall health of young people with mental illness. This paper reports findings from an integrative review of published research investigating physical health of emerging/young adults with mental illness. A total of 18 research papers were systematically analysed. The review found that comorbid mental–physical illness/conditions were evident across a wide age span. Specific physical health problems, including pain, gastrointestinal, and respiratory disorders, were apparent in those 16 years to those in their mid–late 20s, and/or with first episode psychosis. Lifestyle risk factors for cardiometabolic disorders occurred with some frequency and originated prior to adulthood. These findings highlight the need for targeted health screening and illness prevention strategies for emerging/young adults with mental health problems and draws attention to the need for young people to be supported in their health-care behaviours.