People with severe mental illnesses (SMI) such as schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorders have a life expectancy 15-20 years lower than the general population, with two thirds of deaths from preventable chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, cancers and respiratory conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened these pre-existing inequities. Recent studies have suggested that people with severe mental illnesses who were infected by COVID-19 were more likely to die, compared to the general population and during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, deaths from all other causes (non-COVID-19 related), have continued to be higher in people with severe mental illnesses, compared with the general population.
The proposed analysis will address key questions relating to the risk and causes of death in people with severe mental illnesses, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Analyses will focus on vaccinations and other measures (e.g. lockdowns) on risk of death, alongside the impact of ethnicity and deprivation, and the impact of other long-term coexisting health conditions, on inequities.
The findings from this work will highlight how far policy interventions during the earlier and later phases of the pandemic (e.g. vaccinations and lockdowns) have impacted on mortality in people with severe mental illnesses, with a focus on other intersecting inequities such as deprivation and ethnicity. The findings will support future pandemic planning for this vulnerable group.