Skip to content


A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Physical Health of Young People on Child & Adolescent Mental Health Inpatient Units

What did we do?


We carried out a systematic review, to assess the physical health and cardiometabolic risk factors of young people receiving treatment from specialist child and adolescent inpatient mental health units.


The review aimed to answer the following questions:


  • What is the physical health like of young people on child and adolescent mental health inpatient units?
  • What cardiometabolic risk factors are common in young people on child and adolescent mental health inpatient units?


Why was it important?


The physical health of people with serious mental illness is poor compared with the general population. This results in people in this group dying up to 25 years earlier compared to the general population. However, much of this research has been conducted with adults and it is unclear to what extent young people in child and adolescent mental health inpatient units have poor physical health. There have been several studies of physical health of adolescents and young people on mental health inpatient units, however, there has been no attempt to bring together this evidence into one review.   


How did we do it?


We are carried out a detailed search for any published studies that:


  • Included young people (under the age of 25) receiving treatment from specialised mental health inpatient services designed specifically for children, adolescents or young people.
  • Involved young people with any psychological disorder.
  • Reported physical health measures, such as weight, height, BMI, blood pressure or behavioural risk factors for cardiometabolic disease such as exercise and physical activity, diet, smoking, alcohol.


We analysed evidence from all the studies that met our criteria and produced a paper reporting the evidence.


The systematic review was registered on PROSPERO


What did we find?


In our review we found:

  • Over half of young people included were either overweight (32.4%) or obese (15.5%)
  • Average BMI varied from 18.2 – 32.5 (although critically, none of the studies used BMI percentiles which is recommended for under 18s)
  • 51.5% of young people reported being current tobacco smokers and 68% consumed alcohol
  • A high prevalence of physical health conditions and other indicators of metabolic syndrome such as dyslipidaemia (up to 53% had at least one diagnosed physical health problem)
  • Preliminary indicators of low levels activity and poor diet (although subject to some methodological limitations)  



Who are we working with?



Downloadable resources:



More information

For further information about this work, please contact Alison Littlewood (Programme Manager).