Study finds higher death rate among youths after psychosis

Research from the National Institute of Mental Health has found young people diagnosed with a first episode of psychosis are at significantly higher risk of death within 12 months following diagnosis. Photo by annekarakash/PixaBay

April 9 (UPI) — Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH, have found young people have a higher death rate after experiencing a first episode of psychosis.

The study analyzed data from roughly 5,000 people ages 16-30 with commercial health insurance who had received a first psychosis diagnosis and tracked them for 12 months following diagnosis.

Researchers found that people who were diagnosed with their first episode of psychosis had a mortality rate 24 times greater than the general population in the 12 months since diagnosis. In the general population, only people over age 70 were close to similar mortality rates in a 12-month time period.

“These findings show the importance of tracking mortality in individuals with mental illness,” Michael Schoenbaum, senior adviser for Mental Health Services, Epidemiology and Economics at NIMH, said in a press release. “Health systems do this in other areas of medicine, such as cancer and cardiology, but not for mental illness. Of course, we also need to learn how these young people are losing their lives.”

Researchers used data from insurance claims to identify people between ages 16 and 30 who had been diagnosed with a first episode of psychosis in 2008-2009. They then used data on deaths during the 12 months following diagnosis using the Social Security Administration database. Cause or manner of death was not available.

The study also showed people diagnosed with a first episode of psychosis had low rates of medial care and treatment, with 61 percent not receiving any antipsychotic medication and 41 percent not receiving any psychotherapy.

“Other studies have shown that early coordinated treatment for psychosis produces the best results,” Robert Heinssen, director of the Division of Intervention Services at NIMH, said. “This study reinforces federal and state support for funding evidence-based psychosis treatment programs across the country, and the need for communities to invest in more treatment programs.”

The study was published in Schizophrenia Bulletin.


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