People With Mental Disorders Live Shorter Lives - or do they?

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People with mental disorders, on average, live ten fewer years than do people without them, a new study says. The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that those with a diagnosed mental disorder die an average of ten years sooner than do those without. Yet the study may be overzealous.

The research, conducted at Emory University, was a meta-analysis of 203 studies from 29 different countries, compiling the results of mortality-related incidents and study. The researchers estimate that 14.3 percent of deaths worldwide, or about 8 million deaths per year, are attributable to mental disorders. This ranks mental disorder among the most substantial causes of death globally.

"Efforts to quantify and address the global burden of illness need to better consider the role of mental disorders in preventable mortality," the authors conclude.

Mortality rates for those in inpatient care for mental disorders were considerably higher, the study found. The study did not include psychiatric drug use or prolonged use of pharmaceuticals as contributors to mortality rates.

Yet the study, for all its shocking finds, may have been overzealous in its conclusions.

Melissa Raven of the University of Adelaide criticized the study's methodology in a JAMA commentary. She believes that the author's overestimated the total number of deaths by a large margin due to the method used to derive death rates statistically from previous studies.

"Walker et al. have very inappropriately generalized mortality estimates derived from their analysis of clinical (primarily tertiary treatment) samples, including high proportions of patients with psychotic disorders, to cases identified in population surveys. They have thereby grossly exaggerated the population mortality due to mental disorders," Raven writes.

What Raven is referring to is the way the study's authors mutliplied death rates by mental disorder prevalence rates based on survey-based studies. Those survey-based studies routinely have high returns due to the broad definitions often given (in the surveys) to define mental disorders. Raven cites the disparity between the studies that the author's used and World Mental Health surveys.

"This paper is very misleading and should be corrected," Raven concludes.

Source: Mortality in Mental Disorders and Global Disease Burden Implications
A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
, JAMA Psychiatry

 
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