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Health Soc Work. 2012 Nov;37(4):207-15.

Consumer perspectives on involving family and significant others in a healthy lifestyle intervention.

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Dartmouth Center for Aging Research, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, NH, USA.


This focus group study explored the potential benefits and challenges of involving family members and significant others in a healthy lifestyle program for people with serious mental illness (SMI). Six focus group interviews were conducted with a total of 30 people with SMI, who were participants in a healthy lifestyle intervention. Separate focus groups were conducted for high and low achievers in the program based on clinically significant weight loss or significant increase in fitness. Thematic analysis revealed that social support for diet and exercise was a perceived benefit to involving others in a healthy lifestyle program. Other perceived benefits were the potential to increase others' understanding of the challenges of living with mental illness and to enhance the quality of relationships. Participants identified practical and logistical concerns that could interfere with participation, including partner reliability and desirability, scheduling, and lack of financial resources. Participants in the high achiever group expressed a greater desire to involve others in exercise than did participants in the low achiever group. Programs aimed at helping people with SMI make lifestyle changes may increase their effectiveness by involving significant others. Mobilizing social support networks for health behavior change is an ideal role for social workers.

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