Researchers from the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University Center for Aging Research who followed electronic health records (EHRs) of 30,000 older adults report the rate of dementia diagnosis for patients with schizophrenia to be twice as high as for patients without this chronic brain disorder.
Individuals with schizophrenia also had generally higher rates of other serious illnesses such as heart disease and pulmonary disease, as well as higher mortality rates than those without schizophrenia. A major exception was cancer, for which the rates for individuals with schizophrenia were significantly lower, the researchers found.
According to Hugh Hendrie, M.B., the geriatric psychiatrist who led the study,— which is published in the May print issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry—previous reports on cancer risk associated with schizophrenia have been inconsistent. While it has been suggested in previous studies that the lower cancer rates for those with schizophrenia were the results of low case identification by physicians, the new study found cancer to be reported as a cause of death in death certificates of those who were diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The 31,588 individuals in the study had an average age of 70, and all were 65 or older by the end of the study. They received care at the Indianapolis-based Eskenazi Health, then known as Wishard Health Services. Clinical data for these patients were obtained from the Regenstrief Medical Record System, the oldest operational EHR system in the U.S.
This study also found that hospital admissions, hospital lengths of stay, nursing home facility use and nursing home length of stay for patients with schizophrenia were significantly greater than for patients without schizophrenia.
The authors conclude that the "increasing numbers of older seriously mentally ill, particularly older patients with schizophrenia, will create a serious burden for our health system that will require the development of new integrated models of health care involving links between the health and mental health systems."