Physical activity, its maintenance and promotion in people with severe mental illness

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr Sarah Howes  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Background: People with severe mental health problems, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, can have higher risk of some health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Because of their mental health symptoms and medications, they may find it difficult to be active and can spend more time sitting, which can increase these health risks. Little is known about physical activity levels and support to engage in physical activity for people with mental health problems living in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

This PhD research project is linked to another research study called the Walking for Health (WORtH) study. The WORtH study included an intervention to support people with mental health conditions to move more and sit less.

Purpose: The purpose of this PhD research project is to understand the current physical activity levels of people living with these health conditions in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This research will also assess ways of supporting people with mental health conditions to be more active. This will include understanding what is currently being done in mental health services to promote physical activity, and what works best to support people to continue being active longer-term.

Methods: The research methods will be developed based on a literature review. Information will be collected from people living with mental health conditions in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to understand their current physical activity levels. Information will be collected from mental health services staff in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to understand physical activity promotion available to people with mental health difficulties.

The PhD researcher may collect information from participants who were involved in the WORtH study to understand which aspects of the intervention were linked with continuing to be active after the intervention ended.

Medicine (26) Nursing & Health (27)


Firth, J., Siddiqi, N., Koyanagi, A.I., Siskind, D., Rosenbaum, S., Galletly, C., Allan, S., Caneo, C., Carney, R., Carvalho, A.F. and Chatterton, M.L., 2019. The Lancet Psychiatry Commission: a blueprint for protecting physical health in people with mental illness. The Lancet Psychiatry, 6(8), pp.675-712.
McDonough, S.M., Howes, S.C., Dillon, M., McAuley, J., Brady, J., Clarke, M., Clarke, M., Lait, E., McArdle, D., O’Neill, T. and Wilson, I., Niven, A., Williams, J, Tully, M., Murphy, M., McDonough, C. 2021. A study protocol for a randomised controlled feasibility trial of an intervention to increase activity and reduce sedentary behaviour in people with severe mental illness: Walking fOR Health
(WORtH) Study. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 7(1), pp.1-10.
NHS. The NHS Long Term Plan. 2019.
Vancampfort D, Firth J, Schuch FB, Rosenbaum S, Mugisha J, Hallgren M, et al. Sedentary behavior and physical activity levels in people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder: a global systematic review and meta-analysis. World Psychiatry. 2017;16(3):308-15.

 About the Project