Physical illness and schizophrenia: a review of the literature

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ObjectiveThe lifespan of people with schizophrenia is shortened compared to the general population. We reviewed the literature on comorbid physical diseases in schizophrenia to provide a basis for initiatives to fight this unacceptable situation.MethodWe searched MEDLINE (1966 – May 2006) combining the MeSH term of schizophrenia with the 23 MeSH terms of general physical disease categories to identify relevant epidemiological studies.ResultsA total of 44 202 abstracts were screened. People with schizophrenia have higher prevalences of HIV infection and hepatitis, osteoporosis, altered pain sensitivity, sexual dysfunction, obstetric complications, cardiovascular diseases, overweight, diabetes, dental problems, and polydipsia than the general population. Rheumatoid arthritis and cancer may occur less frequently than in the general population. Eighty-six per cent of the studies came from industrialized countries limiting the generalizability of the findings.ConclusionThe increased frequency of physical diseases in schizophrenia might be on account of factors related to schizophrenia and its treatment, but undoubtedly also results from the unsatisfactory organization of health services, from the attitudes of medical doctors, and the social stigma ascribed to the schizophrenic patients.

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