Severe Mental Illness, Cardiovascular Disease Linked in Study

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The meta-analysis covers 92 studies from 16 countries, and includes 3.2 million patients.

People with severe mental illness are far more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those in the general population, a new study from the United Kingdom has found.

Those with diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression have a 53% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than healthy controls, according to the study led by King’s College of London and published online by World Psychiatry. The risk of early death was 85% higher than people of a similar age, the study found.

Researchers have known for years that those with several mental illness die at younger ages than the general population—from 10 to 15 years earlier on average. Cardiovascular causes—such as heart attack and stroke—are leading causes. One reason is that people with severe mental illness are far more likely than the general population to smoke, and another is that they are less likely to stick with medication for chronic conditions.


For years, psychiatrists and endocrinologists have tried to understand the co-occurrence of psychiatric disorders and diabetes; the 2 are independent predictors of one another, but there are also signs that the medications to treat mental illness cause patients to gain weight and may impair glucose tolerance.

This new study is a meta-analysis of severe mental illness and cardiovascular disease that includes more than 3.2 million patients and more than 113 million people from the general population. It covered 92 separate studies from 16 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Among the patients studied, 10% of those with severe mental illness had cardiovascular disease, and those with schizophrenia had slightly higher rates (11.8%), along with those suffering from depression (11.7%).

The study’s authors say the results confirm the need for physicians to select antipsychotics that reduce the risk of weight gain.

“These findings are a stark reminder that people with (severe mental illness) are being left behind, at a time when the health of the general population as a whole appears to be benefitting from public health initiatives to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease,” Brendon Stubbs, PhD, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience at King’s College and senior author, said in a statement.

“We found that the prevalence of cardiovascular disease in people with severe mental illness was higher in more recent studies, which suggests that our efforts so far have been unsuccessful in reduce the health gap.”


Correll CU, Solmi M, Veronese N, et al. Prevalence, incidence, and mortality from cardiovascular disease in patients with pooled and specific severe mental illness: a large-scale meta-analysis of 3,211,768 patients and 113,383,368 controls [published online May 12, 2017]. World Psych. 2017; DOI: 10.1002/wps.20420.