Exploring the facilitators, barriers, and strategies for self-management in adults living with severe mental illness, with and without long-term conditions: A qualitative evidence synthesis

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BACKGROUND: People living with severe mental illness (SMI) have a reduced life expectancy by around 15-20 years, in part due to higher rates of long-term conditions (LTCs) such as diabetes and heart disease. Evidence suggests that people with SMI experience difficulties managing their physical health. Little is known, however, about the barriers, facilitators and strategies for self-management of LTCs for people with SMI.

AIM: To systematically review and synthesise the qualitative evidence exploring facilitators, barriers and strategies for self-management of physical health in adults with SMI, both with and without long-term conditions.

METHODS: CINAHL, Conference Proceedings Citation Index- Science, HMIC, Medline, NICE Evidence and PsycInfo were searched to identify qualitative studies that explored barriers, facilitators and strategies for self-management in adults with SMI (with or without co-morbid LTCs). Articles were screened independently by two independent reviewers. Eligible studies were purposively sampled for synthesis according to the richness and relevance of data, and thematically synthesised.

RESULTS: Seventy-four articles met the inclusion criteria for the review; 25 articles, reporting findings from 21 studies, were included in the synthesis. Seven studies focused on co-morbid LTC self-management for people with SMI, with the remaining articles exploring self-management in general. Six analytic themes and 28 sub-themes were identified from the synthesis. The themes included: the burden of SMI; living with co-morbidities; beliefs and attitudes about self-management; support from others for self-management; social and environmental factors; and routine, structure and planning.

CONCLUSIONS: The synthesis identified a range of barriers and facilitators to self-management, including the burden of living with SMI, social support, attitudes towards self-management and access to resources. To adequately support people with SMI with co-morbid LTCs, healthcare professionals need to account for how barriers and facilitators to self-management are influenced by SMI, and meet the unique needs of this population.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0258937
Number of pages28
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2021


  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders/psychology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self-Management

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