Boston University Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Boston University Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Examining Engagement in Health Related Lifestyle Change Among Individuals with Serious Mental Illness


Gayle Berg Endowed Research Fund


2017 - 2019


Vasudha Gidugu, Ph.D., Principal Investigator


Individuals with serious mental illnesses experience chronic diseases at much higher rates relative to the general population, and these are estimated to account for a 15-25 year reduction in life expectancy in this group. Approximately half of these deaths result from modifiable risk factors affecting cardiovascular health and therefore constitute a public health imperative for the mental health community. Greater prevalence of cardiovascular disease contributes to a higher prevalence of metabolic dysregulation associated with greater risk of diabetes and stroke, and obesity and lack of physical activity have been identified as factors enhancing the risk of metabolic dysregulation.

There have been growing efforts to improve the cardiovascular health outcomes of persons with serious mental illness via interventions targeting weight management and improved physical activity. Evaluations of their efficacy have generated mixed results and represent largely short-term studies with limited post-intervention follow-up. However, there is a dearth of literature specifically addressing factors that affect the ability of individuals with SMI to engage in wellness interventions or implement lifestyle changes in their day-to-day lives. While there are qualitative studies documenting participant experiences in specific intervention studies, none of these studies broadly examined factors affecting the ability of the target population to engage in health-related lifestyle change outside the context of a specific program or intervention. This knowledge is critical in order to develop effective interventions in the short-term and to design programs that can help participants sustain lifestyle changes over the long-term. This study was, therefore, designed to address the following questions

  • What are the factors that motivate individuals with serious mental illness to engage in health-promoting lifestyle change?
  • What are the factors that support/ facilitate the engagement of individuals with serious mental illness in health-promoting activities?
  • What are the barriers/hindrances to engagement in health-promoting activities experienced by individuals with serious mental illness?


Principal Investigator: Vasudha Gidugu, Ph.D.
Co-Investigator: Zlatka Russinova, Ph.D.


Inquiries related to the project should be addressed to:

Vasudha Gidugu, Ph.D.

Boston University, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation
940 Commonwealth Avenue West, 2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02215