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How Schizophrenia Affects Life Expectancy

Learn how schizophrenia affects life expectancy from psychiatrist Jeanie Tse in this Howcast video.

Transcript

Hi. I'm Jeanie Tse. I'm here to talk to you about life expectancy and schizophrenia. The bad news is that people with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses, like bi-polar disorder and depression, have a risk of dying 25 years earlier than the general population on average. And what we know is that they're 30 percent more likely to have heart disease, 60 percent more likely to have lung diseases, and two to three times more likely to have diabetes than the general population.

The good news is that at least 60 percent of the risk for this early mortality is thought to be preventable and treatable. And so, if we can help people with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses manage their physical health and physical illnesses, we can actually prolong their lives and help them to have a better quality of life.

So, things that are important towards this are the very basics. Healthy eating, so helping them to have better access to healthy fruits and vegetables and to learn about proper nutrition, encouraging physical activity, so exercise that raises the heart rate to burn fat and reduce risk of heart disease. Those things are important as well.

And then taking medications has been associated with decreased mortality as well. Taking anti-psychotic medications that treat schizophrenia is associated with a reduced mortality. And so, even though some of these anti-psychotic medications can cause weight gain, diabetes at risk, and a risk of higher cholesterol, they actually are protective, in terms of helping a person to be able to become mentally healthy so that they can live a physically healthy life as well.

Taking anti-psychotic medication can actually help to prolong the life of somebody who has schizophrenia. It may be counter-intuitive because many anti-psychotic medications actually increase weight and the risk for diabetes and high cholesterol. But still, the theory is that because people are better able to live mentally healthy lives, they are able to better take care of themselves and their physical health, get treatment for their physical health conditions and therefore they are able to live longer.

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