Deaths from Natural Causes Much Higher among Schizophrenics Compared to the General Population

New findings from a 25-year study show that patients with schizophrenia have a mortality risk that is two to three times that of the general population.

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Steve Brown, of the Hampshire Partnership National Health Service Trust, Southampton, UK, and colleagues, the all-cause standardized mortality ratio (SMR) was 289, a three-fold increase in comparison to the general populations of England and Wales. About 81% of the increase in the SMR was from natural causes.

Among the 370 patients with schizophrenia who participated in the study, 141 of 164 deaths were from natural causes that did not correlate to the patient’s schizophrenia. According to the analysis performed by

British Journal of Psychiatry,

In an article published in the

the researchers also noted that cardiovascular disease was largely responsible for the increase in overall mortality, which accounted for 33% of the increased number of deaths, whereas respiratory diseases were responsible for 19%. In addition, “the SMR for cardiovascular disease increased over the course of the study in patients with schizophrenia, from 129 in 1981—1986 to 350 in 2001–2006.”

The researchers cite the effects of cigarette smoking as a large factor in the increased SMR among patients with schizophrenia. The SMR for patients who were identified as smokers at the outset of the study was “significantly higher,” at 379 for smokers and 194 for non-smokers.

“This study suggests that the natural cause mortality of schizophrenia has been two to three times that of the general population throughout,” said Brown and his fellow researchers. “Further large-scale long-term follow-up studies are needed to establish the reasons behind the increase and to suggest useful interventions. In the meantime, the most clinically useful intervention is probably to try and help people with schizophrenia to stop smoking, to promote exercise, and to facilitate effective health screening.”

New findings from a 25-year study show that patients with schizophrenia have a mortality risk that is two to three times that of the general population, due mostly to natural, rather than disease-related, causes