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J Psychopharmacol. 2010 Nov;24(4 Suppl):9-15. doi: 10.1177/1359786810382149.

The paradox of premature mortality in schizophrenia: new research questions.


The life expectancy of patients with schizophrenia is reduced by between 15 and 25 years. Those patients dying of natural causes die of the same diseases as in the general population. In 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) identified underlying global risk factors for mortality in the general population. However, there is little evidence in the literature assessing their validity in those with schizophrenia. The WHO report on global health risks (2009) identifies hypertension, smoking, raised glucose, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, and high cholesterol as the six leading global mortality risk factors. Currently, there are minimal data on the contribution to mortality that these risk factors make in schizophrenia, and their optimum management. Both short and long-term studies are needed to address these gaps. New research has raised important questions about risk balance with regards to ideal body mass, with some studies showing that being overweight is associated with lower all-cause mortality and lower suicide rates. Cardiorespiratory fitness is being recognized as a more powerful predictor of mortality than smoking, hypertension or diabetes in men. However, there are virtually no published data on assessment of fitness levels in schizophrenia. New studies have raised concerns about the quality of physical care for patients with schizophrenia, which is another important avenue of future research. A greater biological understanding of the relationship between these disorders and schizophrenia would inform clinical practice. Low birth weight has been associated with increased risk for schizophrenia, and it will be important to explore this risk factor for both physical and mental health outcomes.

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