This study compared causes of death, crude mortality rates, and standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) between decedents with mental illness in Ohio’s publicly funded mental health system (“mental illness decedents”) and all Ohio decedents.
Ohio death certificates and Ohio Department of Mental Health service utilization data were used to assess mortality among decedents from 2004 to 2007. Age-adjusted SMRs and age-adjusted mortality rates were calculated across race and sex strata.
Mental illness decedents accounted for 3.3% of all 438,749 Ohio deaths. Age-adjusted SMRs varied widely across the race and sex strata and by cause of death. Nonblacks with or without mental illness showed higher SMRs than blacks. Nonblack females with mental illness showed the highest SMRs in injury-related deaths. Higher SMRs were found for deaths associated with substance abuse; mental illness; diabetes; issues related to the nervous, cardiovascular, or respiratory systems; and injury. With and without mental illness, the top cause of death was violence for youths and cardiovascular disease for adults >35.
Deaths from injury and violence, especially among those <35, should be specifically addressed to reduce excess mortality for persons with mental illness. Mental health care should be integrated with primary care to better manage chronic disease, especially cardiovascular disease. Methodological contributions included use of linked files to compare SMR and leading causes of death between mental illness decedents and all Ohio decedents. More research is needed on patterns in cause of death and any interactions from demographic characteristics and mental illness. Health care data silos must be bridged between private and public sectors and the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense.