Mental Health Disorders Linked To Shortened LIfespan Interview with:
Arif Khan, MD

Medical Director, Northwest Clinical Research Center
Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry
Duke University Medical Center

Christine Khan, Psychiatric Nurse
1951 – 152nd  Place NE
Northwest Clinical Research Center
Bellevue, WA 98007 What are the main findings of your study?

  1. The original idea set in early 20th century that psychiatric patients discharged from mental hospitals had a shortened life span or faced early death was supported by this analysis of psychiatric patients participating in research trials for new medications.  There was no increased risk of early death or shortened life span for participating in these research clinical trials. 
  2. Life span shortening or increased risk of early death is highest among patients with schizophrenia, followed by patients with major mood disorders such as Bipolar Mood Disorder and Major Depression.
  3. Such a decrease in life span or increased risk of early death not seen among patients with anxiety disorders and adult ADHD.
  4. 40% of increased early death risk was due to suicide among patients with schizophrenia and major mood disorders.
  5. Even after taking out the risk associated with suicide, the increased early death risk or shortened life span was two-fold or higher among patients with schizophrenia and major mood disorders compared to general population and mostly due to heart attacks and strokes and similar illnesses.
  6. This shortening of life span or an increase in early death could not be fully accounted for by poor medical care or ongoing severe medical illnesses as such patients were not included in these research trials and good quality medical care was provided during trial participation.
  7. There was definite evidence that treatment with medication compared to the placebo or ‘sugar pill’, if anything mitigated this risk of early death or shortened life span, although the reason for such finding is unknown at present.  The only exception was the class of medications such as Elavil and Tofranil which are not commonly used nowadays.
  8. Lastly, it is likely that psychiatric illnesses are associated with inherent risk of brain, heart and other organ abnormalities and thus carry serious risk of early death such as the risk seen in patients with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.


Khan A, Faucett J, Morrison S, Brown WA. Comparative Mortality Risk in Adult Patients With Schizophrenia, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Participating in Psychopharmacology Clinical Trials. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;():-. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.149.

Last Updated on February 17, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD