People diagnosed with mental disorders on average are twice as likely to die, and die about ten years younger than other people, according to a meta-analysis of 203 studies from 29 countries published in JAMA Psychiatry.
“This is the most comprehensive meta-analysis of mortality related to mental disorders of which we are aware… We estimate that 14.3% of deaths worldwide, or approximately 8 million deaths each year, are attributable to mental disorders,” the Emory University researchers wrote. “These estimates suggest that mental disorders rank among the most substantial causes of death worldwide. Efforts to quantify and address the global burden of illness need to better consider the role of mental disorders in preventable mortality.”
Over two-thirds of the deaths were due to “natural” causes such as “acute and chronic illnesses.” The authors did not attempt to explain the reasons for these higher rates of mortality. However, they did identify that people spending longer times in more intensive psychiatric treatment settings, such as psychiatric hospitals, were even more likely to die younger. “The elevated mortality in inpatients is not surprising because inpatients tend to have more advanced psychiatric and general medical conditions than outpatients,” the authors suggested. In their analysis, they did not analyze psychiatric drug use as a separate factor, nor discuss its possible contributions to early mortality.
Addendum: University of Adelaide’s Melissa Raven has strongly criticized the study in a comment published on JAMA Psychiatry. Raven argued that the authors likely vastly overestimated the total numbers of deaths, because they multiplied the death rates they found by mental disorder prevalence rates from screening surveys of the general population — the latter of which commonly produce very high prevalence rates by using broad definitions of mental disorders. “This paper is very misleading and should be corrected,” wrote Raven. See the “Comments” at the link below.
Walker E, McGee RE, and Druss BG. “Mortality in Mental Disorders and Global Disease Burden Implications: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” JAMA Psychiatry 72, no. 4 (April 1, 2015): 334–41. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.2502. (Full text)