Comorbid physical illness is a common cause of death in people with severe mental illness (SMI) worldwide. In rural China, the prevalence of physical illness comorbidity among persons with SMI remains unclear. This study aimed to examine non-communicable physical illness comorbidity and its risk factors among people with SMI in a rural area of China.
A mental health survey, using the International Classification of Disease (ICD-10), was conducted in six townships of Xinjin District, Chengdu, China in 2015.
A total of 724 persons with SMI were included in this study, and 37.8% of them had at least one physical illness. The most common physical illnesses were hypertension (10.5%) and diabetes (5.8%). More physical comorbidity was reported among persons with affective disorders than persons with schizophrenia. Many participants (37.4%) had never received antipsychotic treatment, and of those, 51.6% reported having a physical illness comorbidity. Significant associations were found between physical illness comorbidity and participants’ family economic status, family size, age at onset of mental disorder, treatment status, and symptom severity.
Our findings indicate the need of an integration of medical and psychiatric care in primary care. It also suggests that poverty and having never received treatment for mental health problems negatively affect the health of persons with SMI, which deserve more attention. Researchers and policymakers can take these findings into account to develop health policies and improve the mental and physical health care in rural China.

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