People with psychosis tend to engage in much lower levels of physical activity compared to the general population, and this is often due to impairments tied to the illness, such as depression, cognitive problems, mobility difficulties, and pain, according to a large international study led by researchers at King’s College London.
People with psychosis die more than a decade earlier than the general population, and this is most often linked to cardiovascular disease. Since an active lifestyle is considered just as effective in preventing cardiovascular disease as medication (such as statins), the researchers set out to to investigate whether people with psychosis are meeting standard levels of physical activity.
The researchers collected data from the World Health Survey, which includes more than 200,000 people aged 18-64 from nearly 50 low-and-middle-income countries. The subjects were divided into three groups: people with a diagnosis of psychosis, those with psychotic symptoms but no diagnosis, and a control group (of people with no diagnosis of psychosis and no symptoms in the past 12 months).
The participants were in their local communities at the time of the study and were interviewed to determine whether their physical activity met the standards established by the World Health Organization: at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, including walking, cycling, household chores, or sports.
The findings show that, overall, people with psychosis were 36 percent more likely not to meet the recommended physical activity levels compared to controls. When the researchers looked at men only, those with psychosis were more than two times more likely not to meet the recommended levels compared to people in the control sample.
“People with psychosis have high levels of cardiovascular risk and die earlier as a result,” said Dr. Fiona Gaughran, from King’s College London and the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust.
“Since physical activity is a key protective factor for cardiovascular disease, our finding that men with psychosis are particularly inactive means that they may benefit most from interventions to increase physical activity and reduce social isolation.”
Gaughran said it is unclear why men with psychosis showed such low levels of physical activity. “Although perhaps the earlier onset of illness typically seen in males means that lifestyle habits may have been altered over time by aspects of the illness or its management, such as negative symptoms, sedating medications or hospital admissions,” she said.
When examining potential barriers to physical activity, the researchers found that mobility difficulties, pain, depression, and cognitive impairment explained low levels of physical activity in people with psychosis.
“Understanding and overcoming these barriers could be an important strategy to help people with psychosis be more active, and potentially to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Brendon Stubbs, also of King’s College London and SLaM.
Their findings are published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.
Source: King’s College London