Mental Health, Drinking & Smoking

Mental disorders may predict higher rates of deaths from drinking and smoking

(RxWiki News) Do people with mental health disorders take more risks than everyone else? Would early diagnosis and treatment prevent risk taking behavior and bad outcomes?

A recent study looked at the mental health of over 1 million men in the Swedish army for 25 years.

Results showed that mental health disorders may increase the risk of alcohol abuse and smoking related deaths.

"Talk to a therapist if you need help."

Catharine R. Gale, PhD, from the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton, UK, led an investigation into early mental health and later hospital admissions.

For this study researchers looked at the files of 1,095,338 men who entered military service in Sweden from 1969 to 1994.

Researchers looked for men who were diagnosed with schizophrenia or any bipolar, depressive, neurotic, adjustment, personality, alcohol or substance abuse disorders.

Specifically researchers where looking for answers to a series of questions:

Were any of the men diagnosed with a mental disorder at the time they entered the military? Did they later enter a psychiatric hospital? Where they diagnosed with any of these disorders in the hospital? Did any of then die? If so, when?

From the original group, only 61,677, or 6 percent, were diagnosed with one of the above listed mental health disorders when they entered the military.

A total of 15,110 of the 61,677 died prematurely. Overall risk of death was 1.5 to 5.2 times higher for men with any mental disorder than for those without.

Less than 1 percent of overall deaths from the original group were from suicide. Younger generations had higher risk of suicide than older ones.

Smoking accounted for 15 to 36 percent of the death of men who entered the military in 1969/1970.

Risky drinking behavior accounted for 7 percent to 49 percent of the deaths in the same group.

Of the 61,677, 18 percent were admitted to a psychiatric hospital and only 8 percent died prematurely.

The strength of this study is the size and time-span, but it did not include any women.

While men who were diagnosed with a mental disorder at military entrance did show higher premature death rates, alcohol and smoking accounted for far more than suicide.

Further studies that look at this issue from different angles, including females, would provide more insight into mental health and mortality. 

This study was published in August in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Funding was provided by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, no conflicts of interest were found.

Review Date: 
August 23, 2012