Serious Mental Illness can Shorten One’s Lifespan by over 14 Years

A recent study conducted by scientists in Rootstown, Ohio, at Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine and Pharmacy, suggests that people who battle serious psychiatric disorders and are not institutionalized have a much shorter life span than the general population. According to the research, this is true regardless of demographics such as marital status, ethnic background, gender, race, or level of education.

For the study, the researchers compared the death records of 647 seriously mentally ill people who had lived in Akron, Ohio. These individuals had received outpatient treatment for their psychiatric illness, but had not been treated in inpatient settings. They compared these records to those of approximately 15,500 Akron residents who were part of the city’s general population.

The total amount of years lost, on average, is 14.5. This is a significant amount of potential life for any individual. The average age of death for the mentally ill individuals was 73.4, compared to almost 80 years for the control group. Interestingly, the number one cause of death was the same for both groups: heart disease. However, serious medical conditions such as septicemia, cancer, and liver disease contributed to premature death more for the group with serious psychiatric issues. Their likeliness of an early death was also more likely to be due to unnatural causes such as accidents, assaults, or suicide.

This study, published in the July issue of Psychiatric Services raises the issue of the importance of mental health professionals and primary care providers working together to find ways to prevent premature death in these seriously mentally ill individuals.

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