I have a relative with schizophrenia. I was told her life expectancy is only 54+/- a few years. Is this true?


Not really. Older statistics are based upon treatment capabilities of the past. Some of the higher mortality is from the higher rate of homelessness and suicide associated with schizophrenia. With the recent introduction of the newer "atypical" antipsychotics and other treatment approaches, this should help the longevity statistics (when patients are able to access care). Some chronic mental illnesses are strongly associated with a shortened longevity, such as Down's syndrome or more sever cases of seizure disorder. Longevity, however, keeps increasing in these areas as well. Psychotic disorders other than schizophrenia and mood disorders, as a group, are particularly at risk for shortened longevity. In an era of "managed care," there has been a recent trend to push chronic mental patients out of the hospitals. As a result, the census in the prison system is increasing. For the treatment of schizophrenia, it is "the best of times" with the new drugs, but it is "the worst of times" since managed care cost containment has reduced expenditures on mental health by 54% in the past ten years. Patients with chronic schizophrenia are especially vulnerable to these cut backs. Can the people who truly need access our new mental health technology?

Robert C. Bransfield M.D.

The diagnosis and treatment of any medical and / or psychiatric disorders requires trained medical professionals. The information provided is to be used for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for seeking professional care for the diagnosis and / or treatment for any medical and / or psychiatric disorder.