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"Individuals with mental illnesses die an average of 25 years earlier than those without a mental illness."

Terry Russell on Thursday, December 6th, 2012 in in an interview

NAMI Ohio leader Terry Russell says people with mental illnesses die 25 years earlier, on average, than those without

One of the questions about the state budget proposal that Gov. John Kasich is expected to announce in February is whether the state will follow through with the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid coverage.
The federal health care law would expand coverage to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level -- a provision which was made optional under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that otherwise upheld the law.

A bipartisan group of 85 health coverage organizations has written to the governor saying anything less than the full 138 percent would cause people to drop or skip coverage, endangering their health.

Terry Russell, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio, told Gongwer News Service that mentally ill Ohioans struggle to stay employed, and that local mental health agencies have marginal resources to help.

"The sad statistic that haunts us every day is that individuals with mental illnesses die an average of 25 years earlier than those without a mental illness," he said. "Sixty percent of these premature deaths are the result of preventable and treatable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and infections."

PolitiFact Ohio checked into his claim about 25 years, and quickly found his statement was right on the money.

A study published in 2006 by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors that was the focus of wide attention and concern in the mental health community looked at data from 16 states, including Ohio.

It found that, on average, people with severe mental illness die 25 years earlier than the general population.

The figure for Ohio was actually worse. People with severe mental illness die 32 years earlier.

Calling it "a serious public health problem for the people served by our state mental health systems," the study said about 60 percent of premature deaths are due to conditions such as cardiovascular, pulmonary and infectious diseases.

A number of factors contribute to risk, the study said, including modifiable factors like obesity, poor nutrition and alcohol and tobacco use. People with severe mental illness have poorer access to appropriate health care, and may be additionally vulnerable because of higher rates of homelessness, victimization, unemployment and poverty.

Among its recommendations, the report called for better access to physical health care for people with serious mental illnesses to fight what it called an "epidemic of premature death and its contributing causes."

Russell said that people with mental illnesses, on average, die 25 years earlier than those without a mental illness. He accurately cited findings of a major study on the issue. And in Ohio, the average is actually greater than 25 years.

On the Truth-O-Meter, his claim rates True.

About this statement:

Published: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 6:00 a.m.

Subjects: Health Care, Medicaid


Gongwer Ohio, "Advocates call for full expansion of Medicaid, objecting to partial eligibility increase," Dec. 6, 2012 (password required)

National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, "Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness," October 2006

Time, "Why Do the Mentally Ill Die Younger?" Dec. 3, 2008

BBC, "Mild mental illness 'raises risk of premature death'," July 31, 2012

Written by: Tom Feran
Researched by: Tom Feran
Edited by: Robert Higgs

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