Exploring determinants of self-management in adults with severe mental illness: a qualitative evidence synthesis

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To systematically review and synthesise qualitative evidence about determinants of self-management in adults with SMI. The goal is to use findings from this review to inform the design of effective self-management strategies for people with SMI and LTCs.

People living with serious mental illness (SMI) have a reduced life expectancy by around 15–20 years, mainly due to the high prevalence of long-term physical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. People with SMI face many challenges when trying to manage their physical health. Little is known about the determinants of self-management – managing the emotional and practical issues – of long-term conditions (LTCs) for people with SMI.

Six databases, including CINAHL and MEDLINE, were searched to identify qualitative studies that explored people's perceptions about determinants of self-management in adults with SMI (with or without comorbid LTCs). Self-management was defined according to the American Association of Diabetes Educator's self-care behaviours (AADE7). Determinants were defined according to the Capabilities, Opportunity, Motivations and Behaviours (COM-B) framework. Eligible studies were purposively sampled for synthesis according to the richness of the data (assessed using Ames et al (2017)'s data richness scale), and thematically synthesised.

Twenty-six articles were included in the synthesis. Seven studies focused on self-management of LTCs, with the remaining articles exploring self-management of SMI. Six analytic themes and 28 sub-themes were identified from the synthesis. The themes included: the additional burden of SMI; living with comorbidities; beliefs and attitudes about self-management; support from others for self-management; social and environmental factors; routine, structure and planning. Capabilities for self-management were linked to people's perceptions about the support they received for their SMI and LTC from healthcare professionals, family and friends. Opportunities for self-management were more commonly expressed in the context of social and environmental factors. Motivation for self-management was influenced by beliefs and attitudes, whilst being closely related to the burden of SMI.

The themes identified from the synthesis suggest that capabilities, opportunities and motivations for self-management can be negatively influenced by the experience of SMI, whilst social and professional support, improved access to resources, and increased involvement in care, could promote self-management. Support programmes for people with SMI and LTCs need to account for these experiences and adapt to meet the unique needs of this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S13
Number of pages1
JournalBJPsych Open
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2021

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© The Author(s), 2021.

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