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16-04-2013 | Mental health | Article

Schizophrenia may shorten lifespan


Free abstract

medwireNews: Study results suggest that individuals with schizophrenia die at a younger age than the general population.

When data taken from 14,974 Danish patients with schizophrenia (54% male) were compared with those from 1,311,419 individuals representative of the (schizophrenia-free) general Danish population (42% male), the respective average ages at death were 62.2 and 73.4 years.

"The finding cannot be explained by intentional self-harm as cause of death, as the age at death in the schizophrenia population, when intentional self-harm as cause of death is excluded from the analyses, is still lower than the general population," say René Nielsen (Aarhus University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark) and co-authors.

The findings, published in Schizophrenia Research, also show that while the general population's average age at death has increased steadily over the past 30 years, that of patients with schizophrenia has fallen steadily.

Specifically, over the 30-year follow-up period, the average age at death for men and women in the general population rose by 0.28 and 0.31 years per calendar year, respectively.

But among individuals with schizophrenia, the average age at death fell by 0.04 and 0.05 years per calendar year for men and women, respectively, and this trend persisted even after patients who died from self-harm were removed from the analysis.

"While the improvement in the health of the general population and the resultant longer life spans are well acknowledged, it is not clear why patients with schizophrenia are not benefiting from these advances," say Nielsen and team.

The study findings also indicate that individuals with schizophrenia have a twofold higher mortality risk than the general population.

Nielsen et al highlight that previous studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia have increased rates of cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, and diabetes, but receive invasive cardiac procedures less frequently than the general population.

With this in mind, the authors hypothesize that "patients diagnosed with schizophrenia do not receive the same degree of benefits from improvements in treatment, perhaps explaining some of the increased mortality."

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Lauretta Ihonor, medwireNews Reporter

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