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What is it like to live with severe mental illness and a long-term condition? The QUEST study

Updated: Aug 9, 2023



People with severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, are more likely to have long-term conditions, like type 2 diabetes. It is also likely they will experience more symptoms, side-effects, and problems, compared to people without severe mental illness Care for long-term conditions depends on self-management. Self-management describes the different things people do, or don’t do, to keep healthy. Severe mental illness may make self-management difficult, which could be why people who have severe mental illness and other long-term conditions are more poorly than those who do not have severe mental illness.


Therefore, we carried out a study to explore the experiences of people with severe mental illness and long-term conditions, to better understand what helps them self-manage, and what makes it difficult. We interviewed people who have severe mental illness and conditions like heart disease and diabetes, as well as their family, friends, and healthcare professionals.


This study found three themes describing people’s experiences of severe mental illness and long-term conditions. This included:

  • Living with severe mental illness is uncertain. Living with severe mental illness can be overwhelming and unpredictable, meaning people prioritise their mental health at the expense of their physical health.

  • Severe mental illness and long-term conditions interact. Severe mental illness and long-term conditions can feed into each other, for example worsening mental health can worsen physical health.

  • Ongoing need for support for self-management. Support from family, friends and healthcare professionals is essential to help people look after both their mental and physical health.

We found that people who have severe mental illness need to look after their mental health in order to manage their physical health. Therefore, we need to provide person-centred care from different sources, including from family, friends, and specialist healthcare services.


You can read the full article here at BMC Psychiatry.

Listen to the audio version of this summary in the file below:



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