October 5, 2022

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Mental illness may increase the risk of cardiovascular-related death, study finds

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Experts say this association has grown stronger in recent decades

Heart health and mental health concept
Photo (c) Carol Yepes – Getty Images

A new study has explored the link between mental and physical health struggles. The findings showed that those who struggle with a mental illness may have a higher risk of cardiovascular-related death. 

“Our systematic and meta-analysis of over 100 studies has confirmed a strong association between severe mental illness and cardiovascular disease, which became stronger in the 1990s and 2000s,” said researcher Amanda Lambert. 

Mental health affects heart health

For the study, the researchers analyzed over 100 earlier studies that included data on more than 30 million participants. The studies assessed individuals who were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder between the ages of 16 and 65. The team looked at the relationship between mental health struggles and physical health risks. 

The biggest takeaway from the study was that cardiovascular-related deaths were twice as high among those who had a mental illness. This was true regardless of the participants’ mental health diagnosis; however, those with schizophrenia had the highest risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. 

The researchers also learned that the link between heart disease and mental illness has grown stronger in recent years. While the data in the study spanned several decades, the risk of cardiovascular disease-related deaths for those with a mental illness has become more pronounced since the 1990s. 

Though it’s unclear why this trend has emerged and gotten stronger in recent years, the researchers speculate that a few factors may come into play. 

“The increased relative risk of CVD diagnosis in more recent decades may be a result of disparity in smoking prevalence between people with [severe mental illness] and the general population or increased use of psychotics,” the researchers wrote. “The changes since the 1990s approximately coincide with the release of newer, second-generation antipsychotics which are known to have worse metabolic effects.” 

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