Although at high risk for medical problems, individuals with schizophrenia are not destined to suffer from poor health.
Recent research shows that there are many opportunities to intervene and provide good preventative health care for people with schizophrenia.
Dr. Lauren Bresee from the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, who led the research with her colleagues, found that patients with schizophrenia visit medical doctors as frequently as individuals without mental health issues.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness in which patients experience symptoms such as delusions (mistaken beliefs), hallucinations, and disorganized behavior. Up to 1 percent of the population is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Recent research has shown that individuals with schizophrenia are also at greater risk for a number of medical issues, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. They also have more risk factors for these conditions, including some of the medications used to treat schizophrenia, higher rates of smoking, and obesity.
Bresee and her team used data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, a large survey of the general population in Canada, to compare how often heart disease, and risk factors for heart disease occurred in people with and without schizophrenia.
399 people with schizophrenia were compared to 120,044 people without schizophrenia. 34.8 percent of the individuals with schizophrenia were obese compared to 15.6 percent of the general population, and 11.6 percent reported diabetes (compared to 5.3 percent).
However, after statistical consideration of factors including as age, education, and socioeconomic status, the rate of diabetes between the healthy and schizophrenic subjects was similar.
Both groups reported similar rates of regular access to a medical doctor.
The people with schizophrenia visited their doctors at the same rate as the general population, and were more likely to be hospitalized (21.9 percent vs 8.0 percent.)
However, 22 percent of the people with schizophrenia said that they had unmet healthcare needs, compared with 11.8 percent of the individuals without schizophrenia.
“These results demonstrate that individuals with schizophrenia are accessing the primary healthcare system, and regardless of the reason for accessing the system, the opportunity to provide (cardiovascular disease) risk factor and (cardiovascular) disease monitoring and management exists in patients with schizophrenia,” writes Bresee.
This means that there are “substantial opportunities” for management of such modifiable risk factors to prevent the onset of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in these vulnerable individuals, conclude the authors.
Dr. Bresee’s results can be found in the July 14th issue of the journal European Psychiatry.
Source: European Psychiatry