Mental Health, Health Promotion, Longevity

Approximately 3% of Americans have a serious mental illness (SMI) such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression that does not respond well to treatment.

Individuals with serious mental illness often also suffer from physical medical disorders, caused by poor diet and/or not getting enough exercise, side effects from medication (such as weight gain), and poor quality or limited access to health care.

More than half of people with SMI report at least one barrier to accessing medical care and often cannot afford prescriptions, lack transportation, have problems scheduling medical appointments, and are not able to manage their own health because their symptoms, like depression, memory problems, and low motivation.

As a result, people with SMI die an average of 25-30 years earlier than people without mental illness.  Researchers and clinicians are trying to come up with new ways to monitor and treat people with SMI. Because their psychiatric and medical illnesses are poorly managed, they may need treatment more often or may have waited until they need more expensive emergency treatment, costing the healthcare system more money. Addressing the needs of this high-risk population is an important step to improving quality of life and decreasing healthcare costs.

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