ALEXANDRIA, Va. (January 29, 2008) - Mental Health America today released
results of the first national online survey to examine overall healthcare in
mental health settings from the perspective of both people with
schizophrenia and psychiatrists. Results showed that although both groups
are aware of actions to improve overall health and quality of life, they are
not discussing such actions to the extent possible.
Mental Health America conducted the survey in response to recent data
showing that people with serious mental illnesses - including
schizophrenia - die at least 25 years earlier than the general population, largely due to
preventable medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and
respiratory and infectious diseases. Nationwide, rates of chronic illnesses
such as heart disease and diabetes are at epidemic levels. Nowhere is this
public health dilemma more evident than in people with serious mental
illnesses such as schizophrenia, who die at nearly twice the rate of the
rest of the population from heart disease and diabetes.
"We should all be alarmed and outraged that the lives of people with
schizophrenia are being cut short by 25 years," said David Shern, Ph.D.,
president and CEO of Mental Health America. "This survey tells us that
mental health providers and people with schizophrenia must communicate more
about issues like diet, exercise and medication side effects if we're to
turn the tide of this public health crisis and extend the lives of the
millions of Americans with schizophrenia."
While 40 percent of survey respondents have private health insurance, they
still report significantly higher rates of chronic illnesses than the
general population. 44% and 23% of all respondents reported being obese and
having diabetes, respectively, compared to 26% and 8% of the general
Key survey findings include
While many psychiatrists report asking or
discussing general health issues with their patients, 83% of psychiatrists
cited lack of time during patient visits as the main obstacle to providing
overall care; 74% feel they are not as well equipped to address the
patient's overall health as are primary care physicians.
82% of consumer respondents feel that treatment of their overall health - not just their mental illness - is
important to their recovery. Yet nearly half expect their psychiatrist to
focus exclusively on their mental health (48%), rather than overall and
Medication Side Effects
The survey also points to significant concerns about medication side
effects. Experts suggest that some commonly-used mental health medications,
namely second generation atypical anti-psychotics, which are associated with
weight gain and other side effects, may be putting people with schizophrenia
at much greater risk for obesity and diabetes. The survey found that
69% of people with schizophrenia reported
that they have discontinued use of medication due to side effects that
negatively impacted their quality of life. Almost 40% of consumers reported
that the longest they had continuously remained on one medication was less
than a year.=20
When choosing from a list of side effects
considered when prescribing antipsychotic medication, diabetes was most
often cited by prescribers, with 94% of psychiatrists considering it
"extremely" or "quite" important.
"When people with schizophrenia stop their medications, their mental health
is jeopardized and they are not able to take the best care of themselves,"
said Joseph Parks, M.D., president of the Medical Director's Council of the
National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. "As
psychiatrists, every one of us must redouble our efforts to protect the
health and promote the wellbeing of our patients with schizophrenia. I think
it's outrageous that over a quarter of psychiatrists don't see this as their
responsibility to ensure patients receive appropriate care for all health
Schizophrenia is a chronic form of psychosis that affects approximately
2.4 million adults and at least 1.25 million families in the United States.
The disease is characterized by positive and negative symptoms such as
hallucinations, delusions, poverty of speech, disorganized thought and
emotional blunting. Severity of symptoms and the chronic pattern of
schizophrenia often cause a high degree of disability for patients,
impacting families, caregivers and communities. In 2002, schizophrenia cost the United States $62.7 billion.