FRIDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Non-institutionalized
individuals struggling with serious mental illness face a shorter
life span than the general population, new research reveals.
The conclusion appears to be independent of a range of potential
influences, including race, gender, ethnicity, education level
and/or marital status.
The finding is reported in the July issue of
Psychiatric Services by a team of researchers from
Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine and Pharmacy.
Although other studies have established a link between mental
illness and premature death, this one focused on the years of life
lost after adjusting for social and demographic factors and the
cause of death.
To examine life expectancy among the mentally ill, the authors
looked at the death records of 647 residents of Akron, Ohio who had
been treated for serious and ongoing mental illness but were not
inpatients in a hospital setting. The records were compared with
those of more than 15,500 residents in the general population of
Compared to current U.S. life expectancy statistics, the
research team found that those coping with mental illness lost 14.5
years of "potential life," dying at an average age of 73.4 years.
Those in the control group lost 10.3 years of potential life, dying
at an average age of nearly 80 years.
Although heart disease was the number one cause of death for
both groups, among those with serious mental health issues,
premature mortality was increased by cancer, liver disease or a
systemic, life-threatening infection (septicemia). "Unnatural
causes," including suicide, accidents and assault, also increased
the risk of premature death, the authors noted in a news
The team concluded that in addition to maintaining vigilant
suicide prevention programs, mental health care workers should team
up with primary health care providers to focus preventable causes
of premature death. They added that a mental health care home for
every patient -- a place that integrates primary care, wellness
promotion and mental health -- holds great promise in terms of
For more on mental health disorders and suicide prevention,
U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.