Outcomes for the mentally ill do not improve with age

The study found that hazardous lifestyle choices, suboptimal access to health care, poor compliance with treatments, and greater severity of medical comorbidities all contributed to increase mortality.

“It is concerning to see that even after reaching old age, people with past history of mental disorders are still disadvantaged.  The good news is that, unlike young adults, most older adults will visit their primary care physician at least once a year.  This offers health professionals a valuable opportunity to intervene in order to minimise the harms associated with severe mental disorders,” lead author, psychiatrist and research director at The University of Western Australia’s Centre for Health and Ageing, Professor Osvaldo Almeida said.

“It is imperative that we do all that we can to seize this opportunity by educating not only patients but also health professionals on how to manage the common risk factors and medical morbidities of older adults with a history of mental disorders.

“Intervening, even at this late stage in life, would make a marked difference to the quality of life of these people and would decrease the long term costs associated with their medical care,” Professor Almeida said. 

The data was compiled from The Health In Men Study, which is a longitudinal study of some 38,000 men aged 65-85 years at study entry.  Their past mental health history was retrieved via health record linkage and mortality data monitored until the end of 2010.

The researchers identified 5.8 per cent of men from the study as having severe mental disorders.

“Our results are limited to men, although the results of other similar studies indicate that the life expectancy of women with severe mental disorders is similarly reduced,” Professor Almeida said.

Mortality among People with Severe Mental Disorders Who Reach Old Age: A Longitudinal Study of a Community-Representative Sample of 37892 Men has been published in PLOSone.


Media references

Professor Osvaldo Almeida (School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences)  (+61 8) 9224 2720
Christianne White (WA Centre for Health and Ageing)  (+61 8) 9224 2993 / (+61 4) 15 213 661
David Stacey (UWA Media Manager)  (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716