People with serious mental illness are more likely to die below average life expectancy, and to die at an earlier age, than are people without serious mental illness. That mental illness often results in premature mortality is not a new observation. However, researchers in Ohio have taken a closer look to try and determine what factors may contribute to this disparity, which causes of death are most prevalent for people struggling with mental illness, and how this information might be used to increase life expectancy and treatment of patients.
The research was published in the July issue of the American Psychiatric Association’s Psychiatric Services journal. Researchers wanted to measure the years of potential life lost (YPLL) of the general population as compared to individuals within that population who were dealing with mental health issues. They focused on Akron, Ohio, and compared the death records of over 16,000 residents. Of those, 647 people were receiving services from the local mental health center for persistent and serious mental illnesses. Those receiving services had an average age at death of 73.4 years old, compared to the general population, whose average age at death was 79.6 years.
After adjusting for other factors, it was determined that people dealing with serious mental illness missed out on 14.5 YPLL, and the general population missed out on 10.3 YPLL. For both groups, heart disease was the leading causes of death, but people with mental illness were also more likely to die from liver disease, cancer, and septicemia, as well as unnatural causes such as accidents, assault and suicide. This study differs from previous work, which looked at cause of death for hospitalized patients; most of these people received outpatient care from the community health center. Looking at these health statistics provides important insight as to what is most needed in treating the majority of patients; the study’s leaders hope it will help to develop holistic treatment programs that combine mental health therapy and physical health guidance in a central, patient-based program.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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