Target Health Blog

Higher Death Rate Among Youth With First Episode Psychosis

April 3, 2017


A new study, published online in the Schizophrenia Bulletin (6 April 2017), shows that young people experiencing first episode psychosis have a much higher death rate than previously thought. The study used insurance claims data to identify approximately 5,000 young people aged 16-30 who had been diagnosed with a first episode of psychosis in 2008-2009, and used data from the Social Security Administration to identify deaths in this population within 12 months of the initial psychosis diagnosis. Results showed that the 12-month mortality rate for these young people -- from any cause -- was at least 24 times higher than their peers in the general population. In the general United States population, only individuals over age 70 come close to a similar 12-month mortality rate.

In addition to mortality, the study examined the health care that individuals received in the 12 months after the initial psychosis diagnosis. Those data showed that young people with a new psychosis diagnosis had surprisingly low rates of medical oversight and only modest involvement with psychosocial treatment providers. Overall, 61% of them did not receive any antipsychotic medications, and 41% did not receive any psychotherapy. Those who died within 12 months of diagnosis received even less outpatient treatment and relied more heavily on hospital and emergency care.

According to the authors, the study underscores that young people experiencing psychosis warrant intensive and proactive treatments, services and supports.

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