The normal life expectancy of a Dane is around 80 years of age. But if a
person suffers from a serious psychiatric illness requiring psychiatric
hospitalisation, life expectancy is dramatically shortened by 15 years for
women and 20 years for men, according to a new Nordic survey.
The survey of 270,000 people who were admitted to a psychiatric hospital at
least once between 2000-2006 shows that the life expectancy of psychiatric
patients is around the same as the World Bank’s expectancy figures for Sudan
(61), Pakistan (65) and Yemen (65).
“These alarming figures require action to stop the high mortality rates,” the
Danish, Swedish and Finnish researchers say in their report in the online
scientific journal PLOS ONE.
Consultant Psychiatrist Prof. Merete Nordentoft of the Copenhagen Pyschiatric
Centre says that the upcoming national plan of action for the psychiatric
sector must address the substantially reduced life expectancy of psychiatric
patients. “Psychiatrically ill citizens have a 20 times greater risk of
dying from suicides and many die from mishaps in connection with
intoxication, such as falling and traffic accidents connected to their
substance abuse. Nonetheless only a small number of patients die in this
way. The main reason for increased mortality is that people with psychiatric
illnesses have many more lifestyle illnesses than other people and more
often die from them. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease,
respiratory illness and others,” says Nordentoft, one of the authors of the
Suicide among those with affective complaints such as depression is higher
than for those with personality complaints such as schizophrenia. On the
other hand, narcotics and alcohol abuse and lifestyle illnesses are more
prevalent among those with personality disorders whose suicide rate is
somewhat lower than those with depression.
Nordentoft says that people with psychiatric illnesses tend to live less
healthy lives than the average for the population. A considerable number
drink too much alcohol or use narcotics, are less fit and have more
unhealthy eating habits. All of these factors give them lifestyle illnesses
that result in a higher mortality rate.
At the same time there are several well-known side effects of psychiatric
medicine, and in particular drugs taken by those suffering from
schizophrenia, which have been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart
disease. The effect on mortality of these drugs, however, is difficult to
gauge as they also prolong life by stabilising patients and preventing
Nordentoft says there are three strategies that can change developments.
“First of all we must look at how we help people with psychological problems
to get a healthier lifestyle without substance abuse, with more exercise and
healthier eating habits. Secondly, there seems to be a certain lack of
treatment of the physical illnesses of those with psychological problems.
And thirdly we must look at the side effects of medicines,” Nordentoft says.
DOCUMENTATION: See the report HERE
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