Physical Health, Medication, and Healthcare Utilization among 70-Year-Old People with Schizophrenia: A Nationwide Danish Register Study

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2017 May;25(5):500-509. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2016.12.015. Epub 2017 Jan 9.


Objectives: In light of the excess early mortality in schizophrenia, mainly due to physical illnesses, we investigated medical comorbidity, use of medication, and healthcare utilization among individuals with schizophrenia who survived into older ages to uncover potential factors contributing to their longevity.

Design: A nationwide register-based case-control study comparing 70-year-olds with and without schizophrenia.

Setting: Cases were drawn from the Danish Psychiatric Central Register. Age- and sex-matched controls were drawn from the general population via the Civil Registration System.

Participants: All Danish inhabitants who were diagnosed and registered with early onset schizophrenia in 1970-1979 and still alive at age 70 years. Controls alive at age 70 years.

Measurements: Chronic medical comorbidity, medications, and inpatient and outpatient healthcare utilization extracted from Danish healthcare registers.

Results: Older adults with schizophrenia did not differ from controls with regard to registered chronic medical illnesses, but were significantly less likely to receive medication for cardiovascular diseases (OR: 0.65; 99.29% CI: 0.50, 0.83) and more likely to be treated with analgesics (OR: 1.46; 99.29% CI: 1.04, 2.05). Overall, hospital admissions and number of days hospitalized were equal to controls, but with significantly fewer general medical outpatient contacts (RR: 0.37; 98.75% CI: 0.24, 0.55).

Conclusions: Because the literature suggests that excess mortality continues into old age, it is possible that medical diseases were under-registered and/or under-treated. Focus on adequate medical treatment, in particular for cardiovascular disease, is needed. Future integration of psychiatric and general medical healthcare, especially outpatient care, might further optimize health outcomes for older adults with schizophrenia.

Keywords: Schizophrenia; healthcare utilization; medical comorbidity; medication; older adults.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology*