Family carers: A role in addressing chronic disease risk behaviours for people with a mental illness?

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People with a mental illness experience greater chronic disease morbidity and mortality compared to those without mental illness. Family carers have the potential to promote the health behaviours of those they care for however factors which may influence the extent to which they do so have not been reported. An exploratory study was conducted to investigate carers': 1) promotion of fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol consumption; 2) perceptions of their role and ability to promote such behaviours; 3) and the association between carer perceptions and the promotion of such behaviours. A cross-sectional survey was conducted with mental health carers (N = 144, 37.6% response rate) in New South Wales, Australia in 2013. Associations between current promotion of health behaviours and carer perceptions were explored through multivariate regression analysis in 2016. A majority of respondents promoted fruit and vegetable consumption (63.8%), physical activity (60.3%), quitting smoking (56.3%), and reducing alcohol consumption (56.2%) to the person they cared for. A perception that it was ‘very important’ to have a positive influence on these behaviours was positively related with promotion of each of the four behaviours, with those holding such a view being more likely to promote such behaviours, than those who did not (odds ratio: 9.47–24.13, p < 0.001). The majority (56.2%–63.8%) of carers reported promoting the health behaviours of those they cared for, demonstrating a need and opportunity to build the capacity of carers to contribute to reducing the health risk behaviours among people with a mental illness.




Bailey, J. M., Wye, P. M., Wiggers, J. H., Bartlem, K. M., & Bowman, J. A. (2017). Family carers: A role in addressing chronic disease risk behaviours for people with a mental illness? Preventive Medicine Reports, 7, 140–146.

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