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Researchers are urging doctors and mental health providers to change their focus on mental illness from suicide prevention to overall death prevention.
A population study has found that people with mental health issues are more likely to die from accidental death than from suicide.
The national population study was conducted by Casey Crump, M.D., Ph.D. at Stanford University and was published in the August issue of The British Journal of Psychiatry. Crump and his colleagues used registries from Swedish and other national health systems to assay death risks to patients with diagnosed psychiatric disorders.
The study consisted of about 7 million people from Sweden in the year 2001 and compared them to the death registries of the subsequent eight years. Using other registries, they were able to cross-reference patients with psychiatric and mental health issues and correlate the results.
In the eight-year study period, 26 percent of those who died by accident had received a psychiatric diagnosis compared to just 9 percent of those not diagnosed. This gives a substantially increased risk for the mentally ill of suffering accidental death.
Similar cross-references for suicide and other causes of death were also conducted. Risk factors for death by accident versus suicide in the mentally ill were nearly 50 percent higher (0.9 percent versus 0.6 percent accident-suicide).
The mental disorder most likely associated with accidental death was alcohol abuse, which the researchers say should become more of a focus for physicians and caregivers.
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