Mental illness linked to worse heart attack outcomes

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In a new study, researchers found that people with a severe mental illness are more likely to die following a heart attack than those without a psychiatric diagnosis.

The risk of death 30 days after a heart attack for people with schizophrenia was doubled when compared with those without the condition, for example.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Edinburgh.

In the study, the team examined anonymous hospital data for more than 235,000 people admitted for heart attack in Scotland from 1991 to 2014.

They compared the risks of death and further heart attack and stroke among heart attack patients with schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder to patients without a history of mental illness.

The research team found that people with one of these three conditions were more likely to die within 30 days, one year and five years—and to have another heart attack or stroke—compared with those without mental ill-health.

After 30 days, patients with schizophrenia were twice as likely to have died, and patients with bipolar disorder or major depression had a 30-50 percent increased risk of death.

People with severe mental illness were also less likely to receive revascularisation—an operation to restore blood flow—which researchers say may indicate differences in care.

Researchers say the findings may be due to a number of reasons including poor general health, social exclusion and possible differences in longer-term treatment.

The team advises that people with mental health conditions should continue to seek advice from their medical team if they have any concerns about their health.

Researchers need to raise awareness amongst physical health professionals of symptoms that can be masked by the side effects of psychiatric medication, and accept that people with mental illness may need more time and support to accept medical procedures.

The study is published in BMC Medicine. One author of the study is Dr. Caroline Jackson.

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