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Risk of Death Increases in Patients with both Cardiovascular and Psychiatric Diseases

Risk of Death Increases in Patients with both Cardiovascular and Psychiatric Diseases


Chronic diseases like stroke, heart attack, and diabetes ravage our older population. These problems put the patients at risk of premature death. In fact, over 17 million deaths are recorded from one heart problem or the other annually.

At the same time, psychiatric illnesses also negatively impact life span and quality. Sadly, when there's comorbidity (two or more illnesses existing together) between heart disease and mental illness, the risk of death increases by over 100%.


The Research

Some scientists in Sweden set out to study over one million patients who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and diabetes between 1932 and 1995. It was simply a matter of gathering stats.

But interestingly, they discovered that more than a quarter of the patients were also diagnosed with at least one mental illness. 7% of the one million patients died after being diagnosed, and 0.3% died from suicide.

Even more interesting was the fact that the death rate was far higher in those with a comorbid psychiatric disorder (15.4%-21.1%) than those without (5.5%-9.1%.).

The researchers went further to examine the unaffected siblings of the patients to see if any familial risk factors were influencing the death rate. But it wasn't just about heredity. The psychiatric comorbidity clearly was resulting in a higher death rate, including death from suicide.


How Different Types of Psychiatric Disorders Affect the Risk of Death

The researchers also discovered a higher risk of death with some psychiatric disorders than in others. For example, it was about 9 times higher in those with comorbid substance abuse disorder and about 6 times higher in those with depression.


However, there was one limitation in the study. The over one million patients these researchers studied were all in specialty care settings. In fact, they obtained their data from registries.

This means that those undiagnosed or having less severe health challenges are not included. So these percentages may not accurately reflect how psychiatric disorders generally interact with heart diseases.


The Bottom Line

Even though we're not certain about the figures, one thing's for sure: people living with cardiovascular diseases or diabetes alongside any mental illness are at a greater risk of death.

And the bottom line is it would be helpful to examine patients with any heart disease if they also have comorbid psychiatric disorders. If they do, then follow-up mental health care with medication can help reduce the death rate and at least extend lives even though for a bit.


"Improving assessment, treatment, and follow-up of people with comorbid psychiatric disorders may reduce the risk of mortality in people with chronic non-communicable diseases," the researchers said.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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