Mental illness significantly increases the risk of premature death from heart disease, study reveals

Researcher says findings prove people with serious mental illnesses are being 'left behind' by public health initiatives

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The Independent Online

Having a serious mental illness significantly increases the risk of premature death from heart disease, a large study has shown.

Researchers who analysed data on more than three million patients found significant links between cardiovascular disease and conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression.

People with severe mental illness (SMI) were up to 78 per cent more likely to suffer from damaged hearts and arteries than healthy individuals.

The risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was 85 per cent higher in people with SMIs.

Dr Brendon Stubbs, a member of the international team at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, said: “These findings are a stark reminder that people with SMI are being left behind, at a time when the health of the general population as a whole appears to be benefiting from public health initiatives to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease.

“We found that the prevalence of cardiovascular disease in people with severe mental illness (SMI) was higher in more recent studies, which suggests that our efforts so far have been unsuccessful in reducing the health gap between people with SMI and the general population.

“People with SMI die much earlier than those without these disorders, yet the majority of these premature deaths may be preventable with care that prioritises lifestyle changes, such as exercise, better nutrition and stopping smoking, along with cautious prescribing of anti-psychotics.”

The investigation involved pooling information from 92 previous studies spanning four continents. Data was provided by more than 3.2 million patients and 113 million people from the general population.

A tenth of patients with severe mental illness were found to have cardiovascular disease, with the proportion being slightly higher among those affected by schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Factors affecting heart disease risk included higher body mass index (BMI) and side effects from anti-psychotic drugs.

The findings appear in the journal World Psychiatry.