High risk of chronic health conditions plagues those with schizophrenia

INDIANAPOLIS -- Both men and women with schizophrenia are significantly more likely to have one or more of 46 common chronic health conditions than individuals without mental illness, according to research published in the November 2006 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

"This work is yet another piece in the larger puzzle of understanding the relationships between mental and physical health," said Caroline Carney Doebbeling, M.D., M.Sc., associate professor of psychiatry and medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a research scientist at the Regenstrief Institute, Inc. Dr. Carney Doebbeling is the first author of the study which looked at inpatient and outpatient insurance claims data from more than 700,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 64. She has previously used this data to study mental illness and cancer, mental illness and diabetes, and the likelihood of women with mental illness to undergo mammograms.

In the new study, Dr. Carney Doebbeling and colleagues report that compared with individuals without mental illness, persons with schizophrenia were more likely to have a greater number of conditions spanning several disease categories including cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, and endocrine diseases. One-third of a rather young population (average age of those with schizophrenia was 40 years old) already had three or more chronic physical health conditions needing a physician’s care. Only 29 percent of people treated for schizophrenia, compared with 54 percent of controls, did not have at least one accompanying physical illness.

The impact of having medical problems in addition to schizophrenia is significant, affecting both quality of life and delivery of psychiatric and medical services.

"This work highlights the need for integrated medical and psychiatric care, and the long-term deleterious effects on physical health of living with chronic mental illness," said Dr. Carney Doebbeling. "Both physical and mental health practitioners should have a heightened awareness of the significant medical morbidity faced by persons with chronic mental illness."

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Co-authors of the study are Laura Jones, M.Sc., of the University of Iowa, and Robert F. Woolson, Ph.D., of the Medical University of South Carolina. The research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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