Obesity among individuals with serious mental illness.

OBJECTIVE: To study the distribution and correlates of body mass index (BMI) among individuals with serious mental illness.

METHOD: A total of 169 participants were recruited from randomly selected out-patients receiving community-based psychiatric care and were interviewed with items from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III. Their BMI was compared with that of 2404 matched individuals from the NHANES data set.

RESULTS: The distribution of BMI in the psychiatric sample significantly differed from that of the comparison group; 50% of women and 41% of men were obese compared with 27% and 20% in the comparison group. Within the psychiatric sample, higher BMI was associated with current hypertension and diabetes, a wish to weigh less, and reduced health-related functioning.

CONCLUSION: Obesity is more prevalent among individuals with serious mental illness than in demographically matched individuals from the US general population. Among persons with mental illness, obesity is associated with co-occurring health problems.