The study was led by Washington University’s Dr. Sarah M. Hartz, who expressed concern at how severe mental health problems are consistently leading to shorter lifespans due to the affected individual’s drink, drug and tobacco habits.
Her study examined around 20,000 US citizens, of which just over 9,000 suffered from schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
According to the report published by the researchers, up to 30% of those studied that suffered from a severe psychiatric illness were known to ‘binge drink’ – a term that refers to the consumption of at least four alcohol servings in a single drinking session. For the rest of the general population, the rate is a much lower 8%.
Similar findings were highlighted in terms of drug and alcohol use too. Among those studied with mental health problems, a massive 75% were habitual smokers, which again is vastly higher than the 33% figure for the general population group. Marijuana use among the mentally ill was around 50%, while the general population group came in at 18%.
The use of other recreational drugs was again 50% for the group with mental illnesses, compared to a much lower 12% for the control group.
“I take care of a lot of patients with severe mental illness, many of whom are sick enough that they are on disability,” read the subsequent statement by Hartz.
“And it’s always surprising when I encounter a patient who doesn’t smoke or hasn’t used drugs or had alcohol problems.”
“With public health efforts, we’ve effectively cut smoking rates in half in healthy people, but in the severely mentally ill, we haven’t made a dent at all.”