The International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) has announced the launch of its free, online Behavioral Health Quality of Life Tool (BHQL) to empower people struggling with bipolar disorder to assess the associated risks of their current lifestyle choices and encourage them to embrace lifestyle changes to lead longer, healthier lives. The announcement was made at the Lake Nona Impact Forum, where the nation's top thought leaders in health and wellness gather to discuss and develop actionable solutions to improve health, wellness and sustainable living.
The BHQL tool - available on the foundation's website: http://ibpf.org/bhqlt - is a detailed survey that identifies a user's unhealthy habits and provides individualized suggestions for a healthier lifestyle, such as smoking cessation and weight loss. Research has shown that the prevalence of cigarette smoking among individuals with bipolar disorder (BD) is two to three times higher than the rate in the general population, and that more than 80 percent of people with serious mental illnesses are overweight or obese, which contributes to them dying at three times the rate of the overall population.
Those who complete the survey can sign up for a weekly newsletter that offers ongoing support for incorporating healthier habits, whether it's related to diet, sleep, or stress or medication management.
IBPF has partnered with Lake Nona Institute, a nonprofit, community-focused organization that incubates, activates and measures the impact of innovative technologies and programs that can become global models for building healthy, sustainable and inspired communities, to launch this needed health resource for those with mental illness, who can be prone to a variety of damaging behaviors, including poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle.
"Life expectancy increased dramatically in the U.S., from 51 years in 1910 to nearly 79 years by 2012," explains IBPF Chairman Muffy Walker. "Unfortunately, these advances in the general population do not translate to those struggling with Serious Mental Illness, whose life expectancy still lags well behind according to the NIH," she added .
Walker points to a groundbreaking 2015 study of mortality statistics cited by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that found the median reduction in life expectancy among those with mental illness was 10.1 years, and that 8 million people prematurely each year as a result of their mental illness.
"People with mental illness are more likely to suffer from a range of damaging health issues, including heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, and they are less likely to go for medical appointments and follow up care. That needs to change. Having a severe mental illness does not have to mean dying young," concluded Walker.
"We are excited to be working with the International Bipolar Foundation to make this important, new tool available and accessible to those who can benefit most from it," said Thomas J. Graham, MD, Chief Health Strategy & Innovation Officer of Tavistock Group and Global Chairman of the Lake Nona Institute. "People struggling with bipolar disorder and other types of mental illness need and deserve more resources like this that empower them to live healthier and more satisfying lives."
"By offering this new tool, we want to empower people with bipolar disorder and other forms of mental illness to make positive changes that can hopefully improve not only the length of their life, but their day-to-day outlook."