Schizophrenia may raise dementia risk in older adults

May 30, 2014 by Kathleen Doheny, Healthday Reporter
Schizophrenia may raise dementia risk in older adults
Researchers find chances double for those with the mental illness, but their rates of cancer are lower.

(HealthDay)—Older adults who have schizophrenia appear to face a higher risk of getting dementia, new research suggests.

"The rates of in those with in the study were twice that of non-schizophrenic patients," said lead researcher Hugh Hendrie, a Regenstrief Institute investigator and a scientist at the Indiana University Center for Aging Research.

On the other hand, while those with schizophrenia were also more likely to develop other health problems, they were less likely to get cancer.

The study is published in the May issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

As the diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia have improved, those with the are living longer, researchers noted. But there has been little information about how they fare with other conditions, such as heart problems and dementia, as they age.

So Hendrie's team, from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University, looked at the medical records of over 31,000 older adults, average age 70, who received care from an urban public health system, including a center, from 1999 to 2008.

Over the 10-year span, they zeroed in on 757 adults who had a diagnosis of schizophrenia from a mental health center. (In all, 1,635 had schizophrenia, but some of those diagnoses were not confirmed at a mental health center).

Schizophrenia, a mental illness marked by hallucinations and delusions, is typically diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood. About 1 percent of the U.S. population is affected, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

The researchers evaluated the rates of common conditions, health use costs and death rates.

They found that those with schizophrenia had higher rates of : 45 percent versus 38 percent in others. They also had more serious lung problems and more instances of .

However, they also had lower rates of cancer, with 30 percent of them diagnosed with a cancer compared to 43 percent of other patients.

The big surprise, Hendrie noted, was the rate of dementia. Dementia was twice as common in those with schizophrenia, diagnosed in 64 percent of those with the mental illness compared to 32 percent of others.

Those with schizophrenia were also more likely to die during the follow-up period.

"The good news is those with schizophrenia are living longer; the bad news is, they are getting more of the serious physical illnesses than other people," Hendrie said.

Health care use was higher in those with schizophrenia, which wasn't a surprise, the researchers found. But it was surprising that those patients' admissions to hospital were almost always for physical illness, not the mental illness, Hendrie said.

He can't explain the differences. As for the dementia, he asked: "Does this really mean dementia rates are double in those with schizophrenia? Or is it that the doctors are misinterpreting the information?"

When an older person goes to a doctor who has trouble understanding what they are saying, he said, the doctor may think the person is demented, when actually the communication issues may be related to the schizophrenia.

Another possibility, Hendrie said, is that there could be a unique form of dementia that develops in a schizophrenic patient.

Hendrie also can't explain the finding of lower cancer rates. Previous studies have found lower rates of gastrointestinal cancers in those with schizophrenia, he said, and researchers have speculated that the antipsychotic medicines they take may somehow help protect against those cancers.

What is needed, Hendrie added, is a health care system that integrates the mental health and physical health services needed by someone with schizophrenia.

The new finding ''highlights the relationship between the brain and the rest of the body," said Dr. Jeff Borenstein, president and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation in New York City.

Experts have known that those with schizophrenia die from medical causes at a much earlier age than those who don't, he added, but the large numbers in the study add strength to the findings. That emphasizes the need to be sure that those with schizophrenia "get treatment not only for schizophrenia, but for physical conditions as well," Borenstein said.

But, he said, "if you are not in a place where that model is in place, you can still have the benefit by making sure the physicians [for mental and physical health services] are talking with each other."

Explore further: Dementia diagnosis twice as likely if older adult has schizophrenia; cancer less likely

More information: To learn more about schizophrenia, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Related Stories

Dementia diagnosis twice as likely if older adult has schizophrenia; cancer less likely

May 5, 2014
Researchers from Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University who followed over 30,000 older adults for a decade have found the rate of dementia diagnosis for patients with schizophrenia to be twice as high as for patients ...

Older adults with severe mental illness challenge healthcare system

November 14, 2013
Although older adults with serious mental illness didn't have more recorded physical illness and had fewer outpatient visits to primary care physicians, they made more medical emergency department visits and had considerably ...

Women with schizophrenia to get new treatment option

May 26, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—In a world first study, exciting new research has revealed that oestrogen can help treat schizophrenia in previously treatment-resistant women.

Schizophrenia sufferers miss out on heart disease diagnosis

April 22, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Those diagnosed with schizophrenia are less likely than the general population to have a recorded diagnosis of heart disease, a new report published in BMJ Open has found.

Cancer survival rates low for people with serious mental illness

March 27, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—People with serious mental illness have lower cancer survival rates than the general population, according to a new study by King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) published in BMJ Open.

Medical conditions add to premature mortality risk of people with mental illness

May 23, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—People using mental health services in New Zealand are dying prematurely from both natural and external causes, a new University of Otago Wellington study has revealed.

Recommended for you

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

Old antibiotic could form new depression treatment

July 19, 2017
An antibiotic used mostly to treat acne has been found to improve the quality of life for people with major depression, in a world-first clinical trial conducted at Deakin University.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.