Obesity is a major concern in countries throughout the world, but especially in the United States. It has been linked to serious physical health problems including diabetes, coronary disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and many others. The battle against the bulge is difficult for many people, but can be especially challenging for people with mental health issues. Adherence to treatment of any kind is often hard for people psychological impairments; however, the combination of adverse psychological and physical health puts them at heightened risk for serious physical health issues.
To overcome this barrier to better psychological and physical health, Gail Daumit of the General Medicine Department at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland wanted to see if a behavioral approach to weight loss would be effective for people with mental health issues. In a recent study, Daumit followed 279 obese participants who were receiving outpatient treatment from psychiatric facilities. The participants included clients with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia, and they were assigned to a behavioral weight loss program tailored to address mental health issues to provide individual guidance or a control group.
All of the participants were evaluated three times over an 18 month period. Daumit found that the intervention participants had significantly higher levels of weight loss than the control participants. Additionally, the weight loss was progressive during the entire 18 months for those in the intervention condition.
Weight loss totals averaged 5% of total body weight for the intervention participants. In fact, almost 40% of the participants in the behavioral weight loss program lost weight while less than one quarter of the control participants lost significant amounts of weight. Daumit also measured any adverse side effects and outcomes and found there were no statistical differences in negative outcomes between control participants and those in the intervention.
In sum, the findings show that a behavioral program, designed to address the sensitive needs of clients with mental health issues, can be effective at reducing weight and increasing overall physical health. Daumit added, “Given the epidemic of obesity and weight-related disease among persons with serious mental illness, our findings support implementation of targeted behavioral weight-loss interventions in this high-risk population.”
Daumit, Gail L., et al. (2013). A Behavioral Weight-Loss Intervention in Persons with Serious Mental Illness. The New England Journal of Medicine 368.17 (2013): 1594-602. ProQuest. Web.
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