‘Assertive seekers of treatment’
The study authors suggest that the higher risk of death in people with schizophrenia might be due to inadequate access to healthcare and lifestyle factors such as smoking, higher rates of alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, and poor diet.
The team concludes that “more effort is required to reduce the considerable disparity in both mortality and illness burden” between people with schizophrenia and the general population.
In a linked commentary, Dr. Philip Ward – of the University of New South Wales Sydney in Australia – says, “A gap in life expectancy of this size for any other group of patients might reasonably be expected to lead to correspondingly substantial public health action to redress the health inequality. However, this does not appear to be the case for people with schizophrenia.”
He suggests that tactics to help people with schizophrenia to give up smoking, improve diet, and prevent weight gain (which is a common side effect of the drugs) could help to reduce the gap in life expectancy.