A Mixed Methods Study of Peer-to-Peer Support in a Group-based Lifestyle Lifestyle Intervention for Adults with Serious Mental Illness
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A Mixed Methods Study of Peer-to-Peer Support in a Group-based Lifestyle Lifestyle Intervention for Adults with Serious Mental Illness

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  • Alternative Title:
    Psychiatr Rehabil J
  • Description:

    There is potential for peer support to enhance healthy lifestyle interventions targeting changes in body weight and fitness for adults with serious mental illness. The purpose of this study was to explore peer-to-peer support among individuals participating in a group lifestyle intervention that included social media to enhance in person weight management sessions.


    A mixed methods study design was used to explore participants’ perceptions and experiences of support from other group members during a six-month group lifestyle intervention. Twenty-five individuals with serious mental illness reported their perceptions of the peer group environment and social support during the overall intervention. Seventeen of these individuals also participated in focus group interviews further exploring their experiences with group members.


    More than 80% of participants agreed that other group members were trustworthy and dependable, and 92% reported a high level of shared purpose and active participation in the group. Participants described how shared learning and group problem-solving activities fostered friendships and provided essential support for health behavior change. Sharing information, personal successes and challenges, and “being in the same boat” as other group members were key features of peer-to-peer support.

    Conclusions and Implications for Practice

    Findings from this exploratory study suggest that participants enrolled in a group-based lifestyle intervention for people with serious mental illness experience peer-to-peer support in various ways that promote health behavior change. These findings highlight opportunities to enhance future lifestyle interventions with collaborative learning and social network technologies that foster peer support among participants.

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