Death rates higher among those with chronic disease and psychiatric disorders, study says

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A recent study at the University of Oxford found patients suffering from chronic diseases in addition to psychiatric diseases had significantly higher death rates than those without such comorbidities.

The study was published in PLOS Medicine and led by Seena Fazel, MD, professor at the University of Oxford. Using national registries in Sweden, researchers studied more than one million patients diagnosed with diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. For most patients, psychiatric diseases were diagnosed prior to their noncommunicable disease. Stratified Cox regression models measured sociodemographic factors and time at risk. For every patient observed, researchers tracked records of their unaffected siblings to account for outside factors such as upbringing, environmental factors, and genetics.

Within five years of their diagnosis, the study found that seven percent of patients with chronic illnesses died from any cause and 0.3 percent died from suicide. Researchers found that 25 to 32 percent of patients studied had a psychological disorder as well as a chronic disease. Results indicated an association between a higher all-cause mortality rate and comorbid psychiatric disorders.

According to the study, those with comorbid psychiatric disorders were 15.4 to 21.1 percent more likely to die from any cause than those without psychiatric diseases. Results also showed suicide rates were higher among patients with comorbid psychiatric disorders. Researchers found 1.2 to 1.6 percent of patients with psychiatric disorders ended their own life while only 0.1 percent of those without comorbidities committed suicide. The study also showed patients with psychiatric comorbidity consistently had higher death rates compared to their siblings.

This study indicates those with psychiatric disorders as well as chronic, noncommunicable diseases have an increased risk of death from all cause and suicide. The study’s authors suggest that hospitals begin screening patients admitted from chronic illness for psychiatric disorders to improve detection. In addition, they said whole-person treatments that account for not just chronic illness but mental health, may reduce patient morbidity.