Patients with both schizophrenia and epilepsy are particularly vulnerable to early death, according to a new Danish study from Aarhus University. The findings reveal that more than 25 percent of people with both conditions die between the ages of 25 and 50.
Previous research has shown a clear link between epilepsy and mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and psychosis. For example, one study revealed that people with epilepsy are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to develop schizophrenia.
For the new study, published in the journal Epilepsia, researchers followed more than 1.5 million people born in Denmark between 1960-1987 and classified them according to whether they were diagnosed with epilepsy, schizophrenia or a combination of epilepsy and schizophrenia on their 25th birthday.
Among the study subjects, 18,943 were diagnosed with epilepsy, 10,208 were diagnosed with schizophrenia, and 471 were diagnosed with both epilepsy and schizophrenia before they turned twenty-five.
The mortality rate for these subjects at age fifty was 3.1 percent for people who did not suffer from epilepsy and schizophrenia; 10.7 percent for people with epilepsy; 17.4 percent for people with schizophrenia; and 27.2 percent for people with both epilepsy and schizophrenia.
“There was an exceedingly high mortality rate among people with these disorders, particularly those who suffer from the combination of epilepsy and schizophrenia. More than 25 percent of them die between the ages of 25-50,” said researcher Dr. Jakob Christensen, a clinical associate professor and DMSc at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University and consultant at the Department of Neurology at Aarhus University Hospital.
The researchers hope to see the new findings raise awareness about the difficulties of living with both epilepsy and schizophrenia.
“The results are really intended to help healthcare professionals develop new working processes so that this group of patients can get the right treatment. We already know from previous studies that this group of patients die from a wide range of lifestyle diseases, and that some of these are preventable,” said Christensen.
“With the way things are now, this patient group can easily fall between two chairs and end up being sent back and forth between different medical specialists or between hospitals and their general practitioner.”
“It appears that people with epilepsy and schizophrenia are particularly vulnerable — and there is certainly room for improvement in the way the health care system deals with them and their treatment.”
Christensen is also a member of the national psychiatric project iPSYCH and the epilepsy project EpiPsych which carries out research into the correlation between epilepsy and mental disorders.
Source: Aarhus University