Open Access Research article

Obesity and nutrition behaviours in Western and Palestinian outpatients with severe mental illness

David Jakabek1, Frances Quirk2, Martin Driessen3, Yousef Aljeesh4 and Bernhard T Baune5*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, James Cook University, Townsville, 4811, Australia

2 School of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University, Townsville, 4811, Australia

3 Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Bethel, Ev. Hospital Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany

4 Faculty of Nursing, Islamic University, Gaza, Palestinian Authority

5 Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, 5005, Australia

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BMC Psychiatry 2011, 11:159  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-11-159

Published: 4 October 2011



While people with severe mental illness have been found to be more overweight and obese in Western nations, it is unknown to what extent this occurs in Middle Eastern nations and which eating behaviours contribute to obesity in Middle Eastern nations.


A total of 665 responses were obtained from patients with serious mental illness attending out-patient clinics in Western developed countries (Germany, UK and Australia; n = 518) and Palestine (n = 147). Patients were evaluated by ICD-10 clinical diagnosis, anthropometric measurements and completed a self-report measure of frequencies of consuming different food items and reasons for eating. Nutritional habits were compared against a Western normative group.


More participants from Palestine were overweight or obese (62%) compared to Western countries (47%). In the Western sample, obese patients reported consuming more low-fat products (OR 2.54, 95% CI 1.02-6.33) but also greater eating due to negative emotions (OR 1.84, 95% CI 1.31-2.60) than patients with a healthy body-mass index. In contrast, obese patients from Palestine reported increased consumption of unhealthy snacks (OR 3.73 95% CI 1.16-12.00).


Patients with mental illness have poorer nutritional habits than the general population, particularly in Western nations. Separate interventions to improve nutritional habits and reduce obesity are warranted between Western nations and Palestine.