People with Mental Disorders Die Ten Years Younger

Rob Wipond
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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)

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14 COMMENTS

  1. How can people die from “acute and chronic illnesses,” when those supposed illnesses are not even proven to be scientifically valid, and they’re not medically provable?

    “In their analysis, they did not analyze psychiatric drug use as a separate factor, nor discuss its possible contributions to early mortality.” Why?

    And how do we know for certain that the primary cause of schizophrenia (and maybe bipolar, too) is not the “gold standard” treatment, the neuroleptics, themselves? Especially given the medical proof the neuroleptics damage the brain and can cause the schizophrenia symptoms. From drugs.com:

    “neuroleptics … may result in … the anticholinergic intoxication syndrome … Central symptoms may include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”

    I’ve read elsewhere that people with “mental disorders” die 25 years younger, too. Why is money still being wasted on research into the DSM disorders?

  2. Why did they not look at psych drug use? They might not have wanted to, considering they found this:

    “Higher mortality rates were found among more recent studies (Table 2), particularly those with a first year of baseline in the 1990s compared with before 1970.” (Looks like a linear progression to me.)

    Change in antidepressant use in 2000 and 2010, according to “Trends in Antidepressant Utilization and Expenditures in the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population by Age, 2000 and 2010” which came from AHRQ.

    They reported increases in U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population purchases of one or more antidepressant:

    ages 18–44: 48.5%
    ages 45–64: 91.3%
    ages 6%+: 71.8%

    Regarding “natural causes,” the JAMA authors mean diseases like cancer, coronary, metabolic.

    Unnatural causes were “suicide and unintentional injury.” (Like passing out on a tiled floor on your first dose of Zoloft, but they did not mention that.)

    These findings are a good start, but the data they analyzed have a bigger story to tell.

  3. Although many people have have died of mental health treatment, or even bad habits, nobody ever died of a “mental illness”. Any “mental illness” that is terminal must be a neurological condition instead, and not a “mental illness” at all. There are no terminal “mental disorders”. This creates a real problem in design when you have to factor out the real killers, pharmaceuticals, mental health treatment, or perhaps slovenly lifestyles, from consideration in your study. The real killer is still out there, folks, and, no, the real killer is not, as these study results would lead you to believe, “mental illness”. I can’t help but think that the money and influence of the big pharmaceutical companies might be one of the major reasons for this blaming of termination on non-terminal “illness”.

  4. OK what are we talking about here — people “with” so-called mental disorders or people diagnosed with such?

    The point being, though it’s hard to die from a non-existent disease, the act of diagnosing someone as suffering from such can have lethal consequences.

    • Yes, but again the act of diagnosing a person couldn’t kill that person. Diagnosis is not fatal either, especially if the “disease”, “disorder”, dilemma, or whatchamacallit isn’t fatal. Diagnosis may open the door to more toxic forms of treatment, or mistreatment as the case may be, but diagnosis itself can’t kill a person any more than a curse can kill a person. For diagnosis to kill, you need toxic mistreatment coupled with compliance, in other words, the treatment that diagnosis usually leads to is a more apt suspect. Calling a healthy person “sick” will not kill a healthy person, however, following the calling of a healthy person “sick” with a toxic formulas for health, could, and indeed does, destroy the physical health of the case so diagnosed. If ill health is a pretty frequent misdiagnosis, it isn’t the misdiagnosis that kills the patient.

      • I believe that if you call a well person “sick” long enough, that person will take on those sick characteristics. Sort of a self fulfilling prophecy.

        When I was told that my brain was broken and I needed meds for life, I believed that something was indeed very wrong with me. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned the opposite.

  5. “People with Mental Disorders Die Ten Years Younger”

    Allow me to translate this. Pharmaceutical giants, with blood on their hands, are funding studies to publish in journals such as “JAMA Psychiatry” in order to spread the propaganda of “mental disorders.” This propaganda creates fear in the general populace, inducing them to believe that “mental illness” is a major problem that requires more funding ($$$) and more “treatment.” Psychiatry and psychotropic drugs kill people, but the way to produce more victims and gain more filthy lucre is to pretend like these people were just “mentally ill” and that they are dying early because of their “mental disorder.”

    Bogus! In case anyone is wondering, this is all a tyrannical lie. Psychiatry and psychotropic drugs are causing the mental and emotional suffering of millions of innocent people, which suffering often results in early death.

    Slay the Dragon of Psychiatry.

  6. Actually this study radically under-states the extent of the problem. It is by far the LOWEST estimate of the years of life lost by people diagnosed with mental illness that has appeared in decades. Previous estimates have ranged from 13 to 30 years lost.

    One good source: the 2010 report from the National Assn. of State Mental Health Program Directors. Hardly a radical group:

    http://www.nasmhpd.org/docs/publications/MDCdocs/Mortality%20and%20Morbidity%20Final%20Report%208.18.08.pdf

    They estimate that people with “serious mental illness” die about 25 years before their peers without a diagnosis. And they admit that the effects of medication are a major part of the problem (although their solutions are timid). This is a much more serious document.

    Don’t know how this latest study produced such a low number: perhaps by mixing in a lot of people with mild or transient anxiety disorders, etc. Perhaps by “adjusting for confounding factors” in a dishonest way, e.g. adjusting for smoking or obesity without acknowledging that both can be in part medication driven. But I smell a rat for sure.

  7. Could A Dopamine Gene Be the Answer to a Longer Life?

    A gene linked to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and addiction might also help you live to be 100.

    A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that a version of a gene coding for a receptor for the brain chemical dopamine was 66% more common among people who lived to be 90 or older than among a group of younger people who were otherwise similar.

    Read more : http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/11/could-a-dopamine-gene-be-the-answer-to-a-longer-life/

    • Fascinating! So not paying attention to stupid things and paying attention to things you personally care about is associated with living longer? Go figure! But don’t worry, with the one-two of stimulant “treatment” creating manic episodes, leading to a “bipolar” diagnosis and an antipsychotic, should quickly shorten up their lifespans and thereby negate this uncomfortable and inconvenient finding.

      —- Steve

  8. There are many causes of death that could be attributed to psych drugs that we never seem to hear about. For example anti-psychotics and benzos lower your sense of urgency when faced with a dangerous situation, which allows you stay in danger without a normal fight or flight reaction, which may result in your death. I highly doubt death by something like this is ever even given any consideration in any of these studies.

    I have severe sleep apnea and COPD, yet I am prescribed 2 sleeping pills, 2 ADs, and a neurotropic all of which can effect my breathing while sleeping. So if I die during my sleep will my death be attributed to respiratory distress caused by COPD? I think so, and the drugs will never even be brought into question.

    I could go on with the “what if” scenarios but the point is no matter what, I’m quite sure it will be my prescribed drugs that actually cause my death.

  9. I would love to see a comparison between countries, comparing psych drug rates with death rates. It seems likely that would be possible from the data at hand. The US stats appear to be much higher, with 20-25 years being commonly quoted, and the US is the #1 psych drug consumer and purveyor in the world.

    It is quite unconscionable that they did not make any attempt to factor in “treatment,” and explained away the association between intensity of treatment and earlier death by blaming it on the victims. It is amazing the degree to which this profession will go to protect its dogma in the face of contrary data.

    —– Steve