A new analysis of published psychiatric studies identifies a significantly lower life expectancy in schizophrenia patients worldwide.
Risks of increased mortality in individuals with schizophrenia can be attributed to a variety of different explanations, ranging from effects of antipsychotics to lifestyle and dietary habits. Suicide and aversion to health-seeking behavior are also more common amongst schizophrenic populations. These factors contribute to an overall lower life expectancy in schizophrenia patients, amounting to years of potential life lost.
A recent review in Lancet Psychiatry (2017) conducted a meta-analysis of 11 relevant published studies on life expectancy in schizophrenia, spanning all continents (excluding South America). Combining study data into weighted averages, researchers determined the overall life expectancy for individuals with schizophrenia was 64.7 years. Analyses included subgrouping of geographical location, sex, date of publication, and potential bias.
Using data from 302,691 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, researchers found an association of approximately 13-15 years of potential life lost due to schizophrenia. Results showed that men had a tendency toward greater life lost than women. Rates of life lost were lowest in the study conducted in Asia and highest in Africa. These findings are consistent with the breadth of literature on the subject of premature death in patients with schizophrenia.
While risks of bias within the studies included in the meta-analysis appear minimal, this review is limited in that it relies on information from only 11 studies in total. The study also does not examine causal factors in lower life expectancy in schizophrenia or variances in data stemming from different diagnostic criteria. However, results do indicate that the significant effects of schizophrenia on patients’ life expectancy have not reduced over time.
Continuing trends of lower life expectancy rates point to a need for medical and social intervention. Further research is required to identify risk areas where developing public health initiatives and increasing targeted treatments may prove most beneficial in mitigating risks of life prematurely lost due to this illness.
Written By: Jennifer Newton