Level of preventive screenings, care similar regardless of mental health condition: Study

Researchers report that patients both with and without mental health conditions were treated with the recommended preventive care about 80 percent of the time.
By Amy Wallace  |  Oct. 19, 2017 at 5:10 PM
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Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Preventive health screenings are conducted at the same or better rates in people with mental illness as they are in healthy individuals, according to a new study.

The study, published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed data on more than 800,000 patients enrolled in Kaiser Permanente healthcare and patients attending safety-net clinics. The study was divided into 100,000 adults who were diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other mental health disorders compared to 700,000 adults without mental health disorders.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 9.8 million U.S. adults have a serious mental illness, with 1.1 percent of adults in the United States diagnosed with schizophrenia and 2.6 percent of U.S. adults having bipolar disorder.

Researchers examined the prevalence of preventive care in patients with mental health disorders compared to the general public. They found that patients who were diagnosed with a mental health disorder received 80 and 81 percent of the recommended preventive care, while roughly 80 percent of people without a mental health condition received preventive care.

The preventive health care included in the study was related to diabetes, tobacco use, colorectal cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and preventive vaccines like the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines.

The researchers found a larger difference in patients visiting safety-net clinics, with those diagnosed with mental health disorders receiving 62 and 70 percent of preventive care, compared to 60 percent in patients without mental health disorders.

Studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia were roughly three times more likely to die prematurely, often due to lack of care for preventable causes of death such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes, as well as negative lifestyle factors such as poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise and drinking.

"It may be that people with mental illnesses aren't getting the support and treatment they need to prevent chronic disease," Bobbi Jo Yarbrough, a researcher with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, said in a press release.

"For example, we know that the medications people take to manage serious mental illnesses can cause rapid weight gain, but there are few programs to help these people manage their weight while they are on the medications."

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