Examining the relationship between health behaviours and mental health in a Luxembourg sheltered work environment : a quantitative study

Kohl, Diane (2018) Examining the relationship between health behaviours and mental health in a Luxembourg sheltered work environment : a quantitative study. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Background: People suffering from severe mental illness (SMI) engage in fewer health behaviours and, in return, suffer a reduced lifespan by up to 25 years. Past literature on health behaviours and SMI is complex, fragmented and inconclusive, and has chiefly focused on single health behaviours in relation to specific mental illnesses. For example, nicotine and caffeine consumption have been found to interfere with anti-psychotics by reducing their effectiveness. Exercise, however, has been found to lessen the negative symptoms of schizophrenia and lower scores in depression. This research project seeks to explore the potential link between multiple health behaviours (being active daily, eating healthy, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, and being in a healthy weight range) and different mental health diagnoses.

A clinical sample of 84 (56 males; 28 females) was drawn from a Luxembourg sheltered work environment. Participants completed a questionnaire developed from the eating habits measure, the health behaviours measure, the Eppendorf schizophrenia inventory, the psychological symptoms index and the mental health inventory. In order to triangulate the participants’ symptoms, with their consent, a third-party also assessed their symptoms.

Regression analyses indicated that only exercise predicted self-reported symptoms. In addition, there was also an interaction between exercising and healthy eating: exercising was associated with a decrease in symptoms, whereas exercising while eating healthy was associated with an increase in symptoms. Health behaviours did not affect diverse diagnoses differently. Moderation analyses showed that symptom awareness did not moderate the relationship between exercising and symptoms. However, healthy eating moderated the relationship between exercise and symptoms; at a high level of healthy eating, participants reported worse symptoms.

Results point towards a possible impact of self-criticism upon the relationship between health behaviours and SMI. Implications for theory and practice are discussed, and recommendations for future research will be proposed.

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