Mental Illness Linked to Greater Risk of Death After Heart Attack

Study found patients are also less likely to receive lifesaving treatments

FRIDAY, JUNE 3 (HealthDay News) -- People with mental illness are more likely to die following a heart attack or serious cardiac event, a new study finds.

One explanation for this increased risk is that people with mental illness are 14 percent less likely to receive lifesaving treatments for their heart condition, researchers found.

Those treatments included coronary artery bypass graft (bypass surgery) and angioplasty (a procedure to open blocked arteries using a stent), both of which have been shown to improve outcomes for heart patients, researchers said.

The study, published June 1 in the British Journal of Psychiatry, examined 22 published studies that compared the level of care given to those with and without serious mental disorders.

"In 10 studies that specifically addressed care for people with schizophrenia, those with the disease received only half the interventions offered to those without schizophrenia," lead researcher Alex J. Mitchell, of the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said in a news release from the university.

Six studies involving more than 800,000 people found that the risk of death was 11 percent higher in the year after a cardiac event in people with a history of serious mental illness than those without.

"People with known mental health conditions have higher background rates of cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, inactivity and obesity. We already know that this is reflected in a higher rate of heart disease, but what we demonstrate here is that mortality is greater even after patients come under health care," Mitchell said. "We don't yet know the reason for these poorer outcomes but it is worrying that we also find such patients may receive less frequent lifesaving interventions."

The study authors concluded more research is needed to determine whether patients with severe mental illness are declining treatment or whether physicians are not offering the same level of care to the mentally ill that they offer to their patients without mental disorders.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health offers statistics on the prevalence, treatment and costs of mental illness.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: University of Leicester, news release, June 1, 2011

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