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Causes of premature mortality in schizophrenia

a review of literature published in 2018

Laursen, Thomas M.a,b

doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000530

Purpose of review The current review examines the recent literature on the causes of premature mortality in schizophrenia.

Recent findings People with schizophrenia have higher premature mortality rates compared with the general population. Suicides and accidents account for a nontrivial part of the excess mortality, but the largest part is attributable to natural causes of death. Five major causes have been identified: first, adverse effects of medication; second, suboptimal lifestyle; third, somatic comorbidity; fourth, suboptimal treatment of somatic disorders; and fifth, accelerated ageing/genetic explanations. The positive aspect is that people with schizophrenia have increasing life expectancy, at least in high-income countries, and this development seems to largely follow the increase in the general population. Especially mortality rates from unnatural causes appear to have a positive impact. Nevertheless, despite more than 100 years of research and progress, the excess mortality in persons with schizophrenia remains unacceptably high, with no prospects of reaching the level in the general population.

Summary The excess mortality in schizophrenia has received much focus. Future studies should explore the reasons for the high rates of natural causes of death, while aiming to disentangle the complex interplay between medication, lifestyle, comorbidity, treatment of somatic disorders, and genetic effects.

aNational Centre for Register-based Research, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University

bThe Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research (iPSYCH), Aarhus, Denmark

Correspondence to Thomas M. Laursen, National Centre for Register-based Research, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University, Fuglesangs Allé 26, 8210 Aarhus C, Denmark. E-mail:

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