Premature Death Rates Rising in Schizophrenia, Bipolar Patients
People with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder have a substantially raised risk of premature death, research warns, and the risk seems to be increasing. Attempts have been made in recent years to understand this “mortality gap,” but the current death rates from natural vs. unnatural causes remain unclear.
Dr. Uy Hoang of Oxford University, UK, and colleagues looked at hospital and death records from 1999 to 2006. By 2006, the mortality rate for patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder was about double the average for the population. What’s more, this mortality gap has widened over time, they report on the website of the British Medical Journal.
For schizophrenics, the risk was raised by 60 percent in 1999, but more than twofold by 2006. For people with bipolar disorder, it was 30 percent higher in 1999 and ninety percent higher by 2006.
About three-quarters of all deaths were classed as natural causes. Circulatory disease and respiratory disease were the main components of this increase.
The authors say, “There is a need for better understanding of the reasons for the persistent and increasing gap in mortality between discharged psychiatric patients and the general population, and for continued action to target risk factors for both natural and unnatural causes of death.” They conclude: “Optimizing the general health of people with schizophrenia warrants urgent attention.”
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Brian Miller of Georgia Health Sciences University points out that the well-documented link between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and increased early death from natural causes “is an important public health problem.”
He calls for better integration of mental and physical health services after hospital discharge, “because integrated primary medical care is associated with improved outcomes.”
Over the past ten years, the raised rate of coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer among people with severe mental illness has been the focus of much research. This raised rate is not clearly linked to medication, smoking, or social deprivation.