Influences on the physical and mental health of people with serious mental ill-health during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative interview study

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PURPOSE: People with severe mental ill-health (SMI) experience profound health inequalities. The Optimizing Wellbeing in Self-isolation study (OWLS) explored the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on people with SMI, including how and why their physical and mental health may have changed during the pandemic.

METHODS: The OLWS study comprised two surveys and two nested qualitative studies. Of 367 people recruited to the study, 235 expressed interest in taking part in a qualitative interview. In the first qualitative study eighteen interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of participants.

RESULTS: We identified six factors which influenced peoples' health, positively and negatively: Staying Physically Active; Maintaining a Balanced and Healthy Diet; Work or Not Working; Daily Routine and Good Sleep; Staying Connected to Family, Friends and the Local Community; and Habits, Addictions and Coping with Anxiety Created by the Pandemic.

CONCLUSIONS: Different aspects of lifestyle are highly interconnected. For people with SMI, loss of routine and good sleep, poor diet and lack of exercise can compound each other, leading to a decline in physical and mental health. If people are supported to understand what helps them stay well, they can establish their own frameworks to draw on during difficult times.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2122135
Number of pages11
JournalInternational journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being
Issue number1
Early online date8 Sept 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group


  • COVID-19
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders/psychology
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics
  • Qualitative Research

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