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Mental Illness and Metabolic Syndrome

A recent study has found that individuals suffering from schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses are twice as likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome as the general population.

Metabolic syndrome includes a cluster of symptoms such as high blood pressure, a high fasting blood sugar level and abdominal obesity. People with the metabolic syndrome are at increased risk of early coronary heart disease and death.

The study involved 203 patients with a mental illness requiring treatment with an antipsychotic medication seen at the mental health service in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. It found that 54 percent of these patients had metabolic syndrome.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Alexander John, said the high prevalence of metabolic syndrome in this group is double the prevalence of the Australian population.

“Furthermore, the increasing prevalence was not confined to patients with schizophrenia, but occurred among those with a variety of other psychiatric disorders (including bipolar disorder).

“If these results can be replicated in larger samples in other settings in Australia, this would suggest that major psychiatric illness in general should be considered a risk factor for metabolic syndrome,” Dr. John said.

“It would then raise the question of whether vigorous screening for the syndrome should be instituted for people with any form of major psychiatric disorder.”

In a linked editorial, Dr. Timothy Lambert of the University of Sydney’s Medical School said that the increased likelihood of early heart disease with metabolic syndrome could cut these patients’ life expectancy by up to 25 years.

“The alarming rates of premature death in this population confirm the need to closely monitor cardio-metabolic risks for all patients with psychosis.”

“Clearly, the mantra of first-episode psychosis services (“early detection and prevention”) applies to physical health as well as psychosis itself,” he said.

The study is published in the Medical Journal of Australia in the article “Prevalence of metabolic syndrome among Australians with severe mental illness.”

Source: The Medical Journal of Australia

Mental Illness and Metabolic Syndrome

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Mental Illness and Metabolic Syndrome. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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