Premature Mortality Among Patients Recently Discharged From Their First Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment

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Nationwide cohorts provide sufficient statistical power for examining premature, cause-specific mortality in patients recently discharged from inpatient psychiatric services.


To investigate premature mortality in a nationwide cohort of patients recently discharged from inpatient psychiatric treatment at ages 15 to 44 years.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This single-cohort design included all persons born in Denmark (N = 1 683 385) between January 1, 1967, and December 31, 1996. Exactly 48 599 of these Danish residents were discharged from an inpatient psychiatric unit or ward on or after their 15th birthday, which took place during this study’s observation period from January 1, 1982, through December 31, 2011. This group of patients was followed up beginning on their 15th birthday until their death, emigration, or December 31, 2011, whichever came first. Individuals discharged from inpatient psychiatric care at least once before their 15th birthday (n = 5882) were excluded from the study. All data were obtained from the Danish Civil Registration System, Psychiatric Central Research Register, and Register of Causes of Death. Data analysis took place between February 1, 2016, and December 10, 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Incidence rates and incidence rate ratios (IRRs) for all-cause mortality and for an array of unnatural and natural causes of death among patients recently discharged from an inpatient psychiatric unit vs persons not admitted to a psychiatric facility. Primary analysis considered risk within the year of first discharge.


Of the 48 599 discharged patients who were included in the study, 25 006 (51.4%) were female, 35 660 (73.4%) were aged 15 to 29 years, and 33 995 (70.0%) had a length of stay of 30 days or less. Compared with persons not admitted, patients discharged had an elevated risk for all-cause mortality within 1 year (IRR, 16.2; 95% CI, 14.5-18.0). The relative risk for unnatural death (IRR, 25.0; 95% CI, 22.0-28.4) was much higher than for natural death (IRR, 8.6; 95% CI, 7.0-10.7). The highest IRR found was for suicide at 66.9 (95% CI, 56.4-79.4), followed by alcohol-related death at 42.0 (95% CI, 26.6-66.1). Among the psychiatric diagnostic categories assessed, psychoactive substance abuse conferred the highest risk for all-cause mortality (IRR, 24.8; 95% CI, 21.0-29.4). Across the array of cause-specific outcomes examined, risk of premature death during the first year after discharge was markedly higher than the risk of death beyond the first year of discharge.

Conclusions and Relevance

Clinicians may help protect patients after discharge by serving as a liaison between primary and secondary health services to ensure they are receiving holistic care. Early intervention programs for drug and alcohol misuse could substantially decrease the greatly elevated mortality risk among these patients.

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