People with mental disorders have higher risk of early death

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People with mental disorders have a life expectancy up to a decade shorter than people without them, according to a new study.

The findings, which show that, on average, mental disorders shorten life expectancy by 10 years for men and seven years for women, provide new insights into how disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance use affect an individual’s general health, says John McGrath, professor in the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland.

“This is the first time we have measured life expectancy for distinct types of mental disorders in a sex and age-specific way—it’s well known that people with mental disorders die earlier than the general population, but we have used more accurate approaches than those used in the past.

“All types of mental disorders had higher mortality rates—some are attributable to suicide but surprisingly, most were due to general medical conditions such as heart-disease, infection, and cancer.”

Researchers arrived at the findings, published in The Lancet, using high-quality anonymous data from 7.4 million people living in Denmark between 1995 and 2015.

Using a measurement of “life-years lost,” the researchers were able to take into account the onset age of the disorders and make life expectancy estimates for each separate group of mental disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.

The results are worrying, says coauthor Oleguer Plana-Ripoll of Aarhus University in Denmark. “In addition to looking at premature mortality, we were able to explore specific causes of death.

“The risk of an early death was higher for people with mental disorders across all ages—apart from an increased risk of death due to suicide, we confirmed increased risk of death due to conditions such as cancer, respiratory diseases, and diabetes.”

The findings also showed that although men with a mental disorder lose relatively few years of life due to cancer-related deaths compared to the general population, they are much more likely to die from cardiovascular and lung diseases at a younger age.

“Our study emphasizes the urgent need to improve general health for people with mental disorders,” McGrath says. “This is particularly critical when estimates indicate that one in three individuals experiences a mental disorder during their lifetime.”

The Danish National Research Foundation funded the work.

Source: University of Queensland