COVID-19 restrictions: impact on obesity in people with severe mental health conditions


mental health
weight management


Background: Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative impacts on the general population’s mental health have become apparent to both experts and laymen alike; the effects on adults with severe mental illness (SMI), and particularly the impacts on their nutritional and physical health, have been overlooked. Accordingly, this commentary will discuss and raise awareness of the impact on weight management and dietary intake foradults with SMI.

Methods: This commentary article was borne out of discussions between academics, clinicians, and an expert by experience as part of wider survey research exploring supporting adults with severe mental illness to manage their weight.

Results and discussion: This commentary discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on inpatients with severe mental illness, but also reflects on wider infrastructure and systemic issues that highlight difficulties faced by service users to manage both their weight and mental illness. For instance, socioeconomic
impacts contribute to poverty and food insecurity which affects access to dietary quantity and nutritional quality. Distancing and restriction measures affect community-based service users’ access to both physical and mental healthcare and may precipitate relapse of mental health difficulties. Additionally, iatrogenic and psychologically driven weight gain coupled with disruption of regular weight monitoring may lead to
increasing diabesity rates.

Conclusion: Obesity is a multifaceted issue with a cause and effect that is complex, particularly for those with severe mental illness who may face particular barriers to receiving both physical and mental health support, which can impact on their weight management.


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