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In Mentally Ill Premature Mortality Significantly Higher

Differences in cause of death do not explain disparity in years of potential life lost

FRIDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Compared with the general population, people who have serious mental illness lose significantly more years of potential life, and differences in cause of death do not explain this disparity, according to research published in the July issue of Psychiatric Services.

Elizabeth E. Piatt, Ph.D., of the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy in Rootstown, and colleagues conducted a retrospective study of death records and case management files at a community mental health center; the purpose was to determine the potential difference in years of potential life lost (YPLL) for decedents with serious mental illness in a mental health center compared to non-mentally-ill control decedents in the general population.

The researchers found that the mean YPLL for the mentally ill decedents was 14.5 years, with an average age at death of 73.4 years; for the general population, the YPLL was 10.3 years and the average age at death was 79.6 years. The same top ten causes of death were found in both groups, although the rank order was slightly different. The leading cause of death for both groups was heart disease. After adjustments for gender, race, and other demographic factors, mean differences in YPLL ranged from 1.7 years for chronic lower respiratory disease to 13.1 years for accidents; these differences were significant for each leading cause of death. Septicemia, liver disease, accidents, cancer, and suicide were differentially associated with YPLL for those in the mental illness group, though differences in cause of death did not explain the disparity in YPLL between the two groups.

"Recent efforts to improve access and quality of primary care health services by integrating such services within the community mental health center appear to be a promising approach to addressing these preventable causes of death. The concept of the mental health care home holds great promise," the authors write.

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