Friday Factoids: Schizophrenia and Premature Death

Schizophrenia has long been one of mental health’s most studied disorders. Our knowledge base regarding the diagnosis has grown by leaps and bounds over many years of research. Most people are aware of the cognitive, negative and psychotic symptoms associated with schizophrenia. However, far fewer realize that premature death can also be a distinctive feature of the disorder.


Statistically speaking, adults who have schizophrenia are typically expected to live only 70% of a normal lifespan when compared to same age peers. Essentially this means they will live 15-25 years less than the average person.  Striking as it may be to some, this is information that we have known for some time. However, researchers have recently updated this data to include all age groups and demographics.


Researcher Mark Olfson and his team recently studied a group of one million people with schizophrenia. During their study period, 74,000 individuals passed away. Of those 74,000, Dr. Olfson and team were able to identify the cause of death for 65,500 of them. They then compared the identified cause and age with that of same age peers. Their findings indicated that the increased rate of premature death crossed all age ranges as well as demographics, leaving no one group/age immune.


The data revealed that unnatural as well as natural causes of death were both increased by more than three times when compared to normative mortality rates of the same nature.  Natural causes of death by far accounted for the majority of causes. Lung cancer, other cancers, cardiovascular disease, influenza, and diabetes accounted for most of the natural causes. Suicide and accidental deaths were deemed to be the majority of unnatural causes.


Crystal Bray
WKPIC Doctoral Intern


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