Often cited, a 16 State Study conducted by National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), published in October 2006, found that people in mental health treatment programs in the USA were dying on average 25 years younger than the general population. Now, a new study, conducted in Kent in the United Kingdom has arrived at a similar finding. Mental patients in Kent England are dying on average at an age 25 years younger than the rest of the population. The story appeared in Your Canterbury under the headline Life expectancy of Kent mental health patients ‘reduced by 25 years’.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia chose the Kent and Medway National Health Service (NHS) and Social Care Partnership Trust, to carry out the study because it is a typical secondary mental health service provider to a population of 1.6 million in the South East of England.
Good enough, and…
So over two years, they chose to closely examine the cases of almost 800 Kent patients with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in order to gain a snapshot of just how bad the situation really is, and, more importantly, what could be done about it.
The situation is startlingly bad.
In a frightening statistic, they discovered two-thirds were overweight or obese, and a disproportionate number suffered from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol.
The research team found inactivity, poor diet, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption were the norm, plus obesity was prevalent at 66 per cent.
It was also discovered 34 per cent of patients had high blood pressure; 52 per cent had abnormally high cholesterol levels and a surprisingly high proportion were being prescribed atypical antipsychotic drugs associated with weight gain.
This all contributed to a life expectancy slashed by an astonishing 25 years, mainly from cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer for people slapped with the bipolar label.
It is thought by many professionals in the field that providing treatment alternatives (diet, exercise, meditation, etc.), focusing on maintaining good physical health, and lessening the excessive use of atypical neuroleptic drugs would go a long way towards changing this sorry statistic.
According to this article an initiative, a Wellness Support Programme, has been launched in the UK that it is hoped may be able to improve these figures. This programme has already shown some promising results in reducing the excessive body mass of some patients.