School of Population Health

Research to reduce smoking among those people with a severe psychotic illness

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People with psychosis do not seem to have benefitted from general approaches to tobacco control. Smoking is a major cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor for people with psychosis and 73% of males and 56% of females with psychosis are current smokers compared to rates in the general Australian population of 18% for men and 15% for women. Mortality rates due to CVD among people with psychotic disorders are around twice that seen in the Australian general population. The majority of people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder smoke, considerably increasing their risk of CVD.

A major focus of Richmond’s research with Professor Amanda Baker and Dr Frances Kay-Lambkin has been to improve the cardiovascular health of people with a serious mental illness. The Healthy Lifestyles Program represents the culmination of an extensive program of internationally significant research promoting healthy lifestyles among people with serious mental illness. This work was acknowledged when the research team was awarded the Mental Health Matters Award 2009. The Mental Health Award for Research and Evaluation “recognises individuals or organisations that have completed groundbreaking mental health related research studies, programs or initiatives, and whose findings have significant implications for the mental health field”. Please see the article on page 6 in the newsletter of the UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine: The Globe - Issue 06 - December 2009

Following Richmond’s research team’s single focus on reducing tobacco use in a RCT, they developed the Healthy Lifestyles Program that addressed a major public health issue: risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) among people with serious mental illness. Prior to this program, there had been no randomised controlled trial studies targetting unhealthy lifestyle choices among people with serious mental illness. This research was the first study worldwide to be carried out among those with a mental illness and has resulted in several important collaborations with leading international researchers, particularly in the US (Professors Jill Williams and Bonnie Spring) and UK (Professor Max Birchwood).

Improving Healthy Lifestyles among for People with Serious Mental Illness.

In 2009 and 2011, the research team received funding from the NHMRC to conduct a randomised controlled trial of their Healthy Lifestyles treatment program; a smoking cessation intervention among individuals with a psychotic disorder. The research team included Professor Amanda Baker (University of Newcastle), Professor David Castle (University of Melbourne), Professor Jayashri Kulkarni (Monash University), Dr Frances KayLambkin (University of Newcastle and National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales), Dr Melinda Carrington (Baker Heart Research Institute, Vic), Professor Jill Williams, University of New Jersey, USA, and Professor Bonnie Spring, University of Chicago, USA.   

The aim of this study was to improve cardiovascular health among those with a mental illness. This study involved 300 people across four study sites in NSW and Victoria, with follow-up assessments at 15 weeks and 12, 18, 24 and 36 months. This research project is the first of its kind to focus on improving a healthy lifestyle among these disadvantaged people. The four treatment manuals produced for therapists in the study are being used by clinicians around Australia as well as in the US.

Project Members
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Professor of Public Health
Ph (612) 9065 5091
Associate Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin
Conjoint Associate Professor
Project Supporters

University of NSW - NHMRC Project Grant Project IDs: 569210, APP1009351, Commonwealth Government Department of Health and Aged Care, Rotary, Community Health and Anti-Tuberculosis Association and GlaxoSmithKline.