People living with psychotic illness 2010

Physical health and at-risk behaviours

Page last updated: November 2011

People with psychotic illness receiving public mental health services also have poorer physical health than the general population, more often experiencing chronic conditions and being more at-risk due to their high levels of obesity, smoking, and alcohol and drug use.They are far more likely to harm themselves. They also think about and attempt suicide at rates far higher than the general population.

Physical conditions

Chronic back, neck or other pain were common (31.8%) amongst people with psychotic illness, followed closely by above average asthma rates (30.1% compared to 20.2% for the general population) and heart or circulatory conditions (26.8% compared to 16.3% for the general population) (figure 8).

One quarter (24.0%) of people with psychosis were at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Almost half (45.1%) of people with psychotic illness were obese (figure 9).

Physical activity levels were far lower in people with psychosis, with 96.4% classified as either sedentary or undertaking low levels of exercise in the previous week compared to 72.0% for the general population.

Smoking, alcohol and drug use

Two thirds (66.1%) of people with psychosis smoke, smoking on average 21 cigarettes per day (figure 10).
  • Almost one third (31.0%) of people had made an effort to quit in the last year, but just over one quarter (27.3%) had never tried.
Alcohol abuse was high, with 58.3% of males and 38.9% of females assessed by interviewers as consuming alcohol at levels that constitute abuse or dependence at some point in their lifetime (figure 10).
  • This compares to 35.3% of males and 14.1% of females in the general population.
Rates of lifetime use of cannabis or other illicit drugs were very high, with 63.2% of males and 41.7% of females assessed by interviewers as using at levels that constitute abuse or dependence (Figure 10).
  • This compares to 12.0% of males and 5.8% of females in the general population.
Only 12.9% of people with psychotic illness were participating in drug and alcohol treatment programs.

Suicidality

Just over one-tenth (11.5%) of people reported that they were thinking about suicide at the time of interview and two thirds (67.0%) had done so in their lifetime.

Half (49.5%) reported they had attempted suicide at some point in their lifetime.
  • This compares to only 3.7% in the general population.
  • Females were more likely to have attempted suicide than males (57.5% and 44.2% respectively).
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Figure 8: Chronic conditions


Refer to the following table for a text equivalent of figure 8: chronic conditions
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Text version of figure 8

ConditionPsychosis surveyGeneral population
Chronic back, neck or other pain31.827.9
Asthma30.120.2
Heart or circulatory condition26.816.3
Severe headaches/ migraines25.48.9
Arthritis20.815.0
Diabetes20.56.2
Epilepsy7.30.8
Cancer4.96.1
Kidney disease3.12.2
Stroke2.11.0
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Figure 9: Overweight and obesity


Refer to the following table for a text equivalent of figure 9: overweight and obesity

Text version of figure 9

Physical conditionPsychosis surveyGeneral population
Underweight/ normal23.843.2
Overweight28.334.2
Obese45.121.0
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Figure 10: Smoking, and alcohol and drug abuse


Refer to the following table for a text equivalent of figure 10: smoking, and alcohol and drug abuse

Text version of figure 10

BehaviourMalesFemales
Tobacco smoking71.158.8
Alcohol abuse58.338.9
Drug abuse63.241.7