NIMH Awards $4 Million to
Study Premature Death in Schizophrenia


Researchers at the Stein Institute for Research on Aging at UC San Diego were awarded a $4 Million National Institute of Mental Health grant to find out why people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia live an average of 20 to 25 years shorter than those without the diagnosis. The project will study 250 people with the diagnosis for five years. “There are a lot of factors to consider, including medications, stress, life style, and access to health care,” said the study’s co-principal investigator. Article →


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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. I have no doubt this comes in response to:
    growing evidence that the atypicals may be exacerbating the problem of early death. Although the atypicals may not clamp down on dopamine transmission quite as powerfully as the old standard neuroleptics, they also block a number of other neurotransmitter systems, most notably serotonin and glutamate. As a result, they may cause a broader range of physical ailments, with diabetes and metabolic dysfunction particularly common for patients treated with Zyprexa. In a 2003 study of Irish patients, 25 of 72 patients (35%) died over a period of 7.5 years, leading the researchers to conclude that the risk of death for psychotic patients had “doubled” since the introduction of the atypical antipsychotics. Morgan, M, et al. “Prospective analysis of premature morbidity in schizophrenia in relation to health service engagement.” Psychiatry Research 117 (2003):127-35.

    In addition, how could patients not die sooner from the host of other side effects of standard neuroleptics, such as increased incidence of blindness, fatal blood clots, arrhythmia, heat stroke, swollen breasts, leaking breasts, obesity, sexual dysfunction, skin rashes and seizures, and early death.
    Arana, G. “An overview of side effects caused by typical antipsychotics.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 61, supplement 8 (2000):5-13.
    Waddington, J. “Mortality in schizophrenia.” British Journal of Psychiatry 173 (1998):325-329.
    Joukamaa, M, et al. Schizophrenia, neuroleptic medication and mortality. British Journal of Psychiatry 188 (2006):122-127.

    Schizophrenia patients now commit suicide at 20 times the rate they did prior to the use of neuroleptics, and when researcher’s compared typical hospital treatment with anti-psychotic medications against non-psychiatric psychological interventions over an 11 month period, pure psychological interventions were less likely to produce suicides (3 suicides compared to none in the pure psycho-social treatment group).
    Healy, D et al. “Lifetime suicide rates in treated schizophrenia.” British Journal of Psychiatry 188 (2006):223-228.
    Diekman, A., Whitaker, L. “Humanizing the Psychotherapy Ward: Changing from Drugs to Psychotherapy.” Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice. 16 (2): 204-214.

    Lastly, during a 17 year follow up study that involved 99 people diagnosed with psychosis, 39 of the patients died; however, when researchers accounted for age, gender, somatic diseases, bloodpressure, cholesterol, body mass index, smoking, exercise, alcohol, education and other premature death factors, the relative risk was 2.50 times greater (95% confidence level) if the patient took just one neuroleptic at baseline.
    Joukamaa, M., Heliovaara, M., et al. “Schizophrenia, neuroleptic medication and mortalityl” British Journal of Psychiatry (2006) Feb: 188: 122-127.

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  2. You don’t have to be a scientist and get paid $4 million to figure this one out. We all know what’s causing early death but no one is going to lisen to “mental patients” or survivors. You have to have a fancy scientific study to confirm what all of us already know.

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  3. Yes Stephen. What a waste of money – better spent on non drug research. No doubt they will be able to twist the results to ‘prove’ that the drugs are not to blame. Reminds me of the research group that ‘proved’ banana skins were not slippery then one of them slipped on one when leaving the laboratory.

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  4. I think these people are dying young because others get tired of taking care of them, and also because they’ve been treated roughly and they’ve had many difficult times. Also, the medication will take it’s toll on the body, often in many different ways. There are not many people who will face that, they see that the doctors are happy with the way they’re acting, so they don’t report the negative effects- and that is much of the reason why they’re dying young..

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