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Trajectory of physical health of adolescent inpatients: a 6 month prospective study

What are we trying to do?

We are working to develop, evaluate and implement new initiatives to protect, sustain and improve mental health and resilience in local communities, marginalised populations and patient groups.


Adolescents who are admitted to secure and generic mental health wards are a particularly vulnerable group. They are more likely to experience poor physical health than their peers, and live an unhealthy lifestyle. They also have additional restrictions placed on them including lack of access to outdoor space, limited opportunities to exercise and limited access to healthy foods.


We are trying to address outstanding knowledge gaps in the physical healthcare of young people with mental illness and to promote a positive ethos around physical health and reduce physical health disparities in this population.


Why is this important?

Little is known about the development of physical health of adolescents in the few months after initial admission to inpatient units. Our preliminary work using routinely collected data at Junction 17 (Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust) suggested individuals had poor physical health, including high rates of weight gain, however, the trajectory of physical health has not been systematically examined in a rigorous research study  The main aim of this study is to address this gap in knowledge: to explore the physical health of young people aged 14-18 upon admission to adolescent inpatient units and reflect on any differences over 6 months, including those who remain as inpatients and those who are discharged to the community.  We also aim to understand the impact of the inpatient care environment on lifestyle behaviours of this population and their experiences and beliefs about physical health.


This research project will help us understand more this topic, quantify changes in Children and Young Peoples’ physical health and identify and develop potential ways to ameliorate any adverse effects. 


How are we doing it?

We are conducting a prospective cohort study of a six-month intake to the adolescent inpatient units at five sites across three NHS Foundation Trusts (Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust; Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust; Leeds, York and Humber NHS Foundation Trust).


We are using a longitudinal design, with a sample of up to 125 participants (25 per unit) completing a range of physical and mental health assessments at three time-points (upon admission, 3 months post-admission, and 6 months post-admission). This will focus on routine indicators of physical health (e.g. BMI, blood pressure), behavioural risk factors (e.g. diet, exercise) and mental health outcomes such as wellbeing. 


An opportunist sample of approximately 10 people from across the study sites will take part in a separate nested qualitative study. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted to explore the needs of young people and gain context to the quantitative data.


Who are we working with?

This is a cross-ARC collaboration with ARC Yorkshire and Humber.


We are also working with:


More information

Programme Manager

 Alison Littlewood