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J Nerv Ment Dis. 1987 Nov;175(11):674-80.

Is death from natural causes still excessive in psychiatric patients? A follow-up of 1593 patients with major affective disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City.


A follow-up of 1593 Iowans with major affective disorder showed excessive mortality from unnatural causes in primary and secondary depression, and bipolar depression, but not mania, compared with age- and sex-matched controls from the general population. Excessive death from natural causes was found in women with secondary unipolar depression and bipolar depression and in manics (men and women combined) who had concurrent organic mental disorders or serious medical illnesses. Natural death was not excessive in the absence of these conditions. We conclude that excessive natural death reported in psychiatric patients is due to complicating physical disorders and not to the primary psychiatric disorder per se, whereas excessive unnatural death is due to the psychiatric disorder. Also, psychiatrically ill persons are probably referred for hospitalization more frequently when complicating physical disorders are present. Finally, we conclude that mortality patterns were similar in patients with primary and secondary unipolar depression, but bipolar patients were at lower risk for unnatural death than were unipolar patients.

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