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Mental Disorders Linked to Shorter Life Span

A new study has found that the average life expectancy for men with mental disorders is 10 years shorter than the average population. For women with mental disorders, it is seven years.

“It is well-known that people with mental disorders die earlier than the general population,” said Dr. Oleguer Plana-Ripoll, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus University and lead author of the study.

“However, for the first time, we present a comprehensive study where we investigate mortality in specific types of mental disorders. We have used new ways to measure life expectancy that are more accurate than the ones used in the past.”

For the new study, researchers were able to explore anonymous data in health registries from 7.4 million people living in Denmark between 1995 and 2015.

The findings provide new insights into how mental disorders impact the lives of people with disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders, the researchers say.

“Most studies provide ‘mortality rates,’ which is a way to estimate the risk of death in those with mental disorders compared to those without,” Plana-Ripoll said. “We investigated how mortality rates changed for each type of disorder, for each age, for males and females. In addition to looking at premature mortality, we were able to explore specific causes of death, such as cancer, diabetes, and suicide.”

“The risk of an early death was higher for people with mental disorders across all ages,” he adds.

When looking at differences in life expectancy, the researchers found that men with mental disorders have life expectancies 10 years shorter after the diagnosis of the disease compared to an overall Danish person of the same age. For women, it was seven years shorter.

“For example, people with depression or another type of mood disorder, which are among the most common mental disorders, had higher mortality rates,” he said. “Apart from an increased risk of death due to suicide, we also confirm an increased risk of death due to somatic conditions such as cancer, respiratory diseases, diabetes, etc.”

The study was completed as part of the Niels Bohr Professorship research program at Aarhus University, which is led by Professor John McGrath. Funded by the Danish National Research Foundation, the research aims to explore innovative methods related to psychiatric epidemiology.

According to McGrath, the research reveals worrying aspects of mortality among people with mental disorders.

“For example we found an unusual pattern in men with a mental disorder,” he said. “Contrary to our expectations, when we looked at life expectancy, they lost relatively few years of life due to cancer-related deaths compared to the general population.

“This was because, although they have a higher risk of dying from cancer, they are much more likely to die from cardiovascular and lung disorder at a younger age compared to the general population. This is a new and rather disappointing finding.”

“Our study emphasizes the urgent need to improve general health for people with mental disorders,” he concluded.

The study was published in The Lancet.

Source: Aarhus University

Mental Disorders Linked to Shorter Life Span

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2019). Mental Disorders Linked to Shorter Life Span. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 26 Oct 2019 (Originally: 26 Oct 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 26 Oct 2019
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