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Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health

Mental patients have higher death risk but seldom die from this condition

Approximately 8 million deaths each year, are attributable to mental disorders

Alzheimer's patient being helpedFeb. 11, 2015 – This is one of those cases where a massive study of a large number of research reports raises more questions than it answers. It does conclude that people with mental health disorders or two times more likely to die than those without such disorders. This link between mental problems and mortality is complicated by the reality that most people with those disorders do not die of their condition.

Quantifying and understanding mortality among people with mental health disorders can inform approaches to address the issue, according to the researchers in explaining why they pursued the study published online by JAMA Psychiatry.


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Elizabeth Reisinger Walker, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.A.T., of Emory University, Atlanta, and coauthors reviewed medical literature to examine mortality among people with mental health disorders. Their meta-analysis included 203 articles from 29 countries.

Analysis by the authors indicates that the relative risk of mortality among those with mental health disorders (from 148 studies) was 2.22 times higher than the comparison population.

But here is the puzzling part:

   ●  67.3 percent of the deaths among people with mental health disorders were due to natural causes,

   ●  17.5 percent to unnatural causes and

   ●  the remainder of the deaths - about 15.2 percent -  to other or unknown causes.

The median (midpoint) of potential life lost was 10 years.

“We estimate that 14.3 percent of deaths worldwide, or approximately 8 million deaths each year, are attributable to mental disorders,” the researchers report.

“People with mental disorders experience a high burden of mortality at the individual and population levels. Reduction of this burden will require a focus on less prevalent but more severe diagnoses and more common mental disorders.

“Likewise, efforts must be made to prevent and manage comorbid medical conditions and reduce the occurrence of unnatural deaths in this vulnerable population,” the study concludes.

This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award and the National Institute of Mental Health Award.

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