Mortality in Schizophrenia: Clinical and Serological Predictors

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Persons with schizophrenia have a reduced life expectancy largely due to death from natural causes. Factors that have been previously associated with excess mortality include cigarette smoking and antipsychotic medication. The role of other environmental factors such as exposure to infectious agents has been the subject of only limited investigation. We prospectively assessed a cohort of persons with schizophrenia with a clinical evaluation and a blood sample from which antibodies to human herpes viruses and Toxoplasma gondii were measured. Mortality was determined with data from the National Death Index following a period of up to 11 years. We examined the role of demographic, serological, and clinical factors on mortality. A total of 25 (5%) of 517 persons died of natural causes. The standardized mortality ratio was 2.80 (95% CI 0.89, 6.38). After adjusting for age and gender, mortality from natural causes was predicted in separate models by cigarette smoking (relative risk [RR] = 4.66, P = .0029); lower cognitive score (RR = 0.96, P = .013); level of antibodies to Epstein–Barr virus (RR = 1.22, P = .0041) and to Herpes Simplex virus type 1 (RR = 1.19, P = .030); immunologic disease (RR = 3.14, P = .044); and genitourinary disease (RR = 2.70; P = .035). Because cigarette smoking confers an almost 5-fold risk of mortality, smoking cessation is an urgent priority. Having an elevated level of antibodies to Epstein–Barr virus and to Herpes Simplex virus type 1 are also significant predictors of death from natural causes.

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