Older schizophrenia patients have double the risk of dementia that individuals without mental illness do. This was the finding of the newest research study performed by the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute. Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine psychiatry professor and geriatric psychiatrist Hugh Hendrie, M.B., Ch.B., D.Sc., who was the leader of the study, explained “Individuals with serious mental illnesses including schizophrenia appear to be living longer than earlier estimates suggested. This good news is tempered by the fact that they now have to confront the major disorders of the elderly, including dementia.” Dr. Hendrie also said “Our finding that there was a significant difference in rates of dementia for those with schizophrenia and those without the disorder was quite unexpected. The reason for this difference is unclear and merits more intensive investigation. Is this related to an increase in dementia-related brain pathology or could it simply represent a misinterpretation of their symptoms by clinicians inexperienced in dealing with individuals who have difficulties communicating and are less likely to have reliable significant others to interpret for them?”
The study on older schizophrenia patients and dementia risks was published in the journal The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, and there were more than 30,000 older adults who were involved. Researchers also determined that patients with schizophrenia who were older generally had higher risks for other serious illnesses which included pulmonary disease and heart disease. These patients tended to be hospitalized more frequently, and for longer periods, than individuals of the same age who did not have schizophrenia or other mental health disorders.