Comparing Personal Health Practices: Individuals with mental illness and the general Canadian population.
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OBJECTIVE: Individuals with mental illness often live in chronic poverty, which is associated with personal health practices such as tobacco use and poor nutrition that disrupt physical health. The purpose of our study was to examine whether differences exist in personal health and health practices - related to nutrition, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption and sleep - between a cohort of individuals with mental illness in southwestern Ontario and the general Canadian population. METHOD: The study sample consisted of 250 individuals who had had a psychiatric diagnosis for at least one year. We conducted a structured quantitative interview with each person to gather information about their personal health and health practices, using question wording from the National Population Health Survey and the Canadian Community Health Survey. We calculated 95% confidence intervals for our results and used them to compare our data with Canadian norms. RESULTS: Individuals with mental illness are significantly more likely than the general population to have a poor diet, experience poor sleep and consume alcohol in excess. CONCLUSION: It is important for nurses, health-care organizations and policy-makers to be aware that a number of factors may be influencing the personal health and health practices of individuals with mental illness and that this population may require different health promotion strategies to support a healthy lifestyle.
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