Body mass index and mortality in patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders: a cohort study in a South London catchment area

Jianhua Chen, Gayan Perera, Hitesh Shetty, Matthew Broadbent, Robert Stewart

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People with schizophrenia have a high premature mortality risk. Obesity is a key potential underlying risk factor that is relatively unevaluated to date.
In this study, we investigated the associations of routinely recorded body size with all-cause mortality and deaths from common causes in a large cohort of people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders.
We assembled a retrospective observational cohort using data from a large mental health service in South London. We followed all patients over the age of 18 years with a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia spectrum disorders from the date of their first recorded body mass index (BMI) between 1 January 2007 and 31 March 2018.
Of 11 900 patients with a BMI recording, 1566 died. The Cox proportional hazards regression models, after adjusting for sociodemographic, socioeconomic variables and comorbidities, indicated that all-cause mortality was only associated with underweight status compared with healthy weight status (hazard ratio (HR): 1.33, 95%confidence interval (CI): 1.01 to 1.76). Obesity (HR: 1.24, 95% CI: 1.01 to 1.52) and morbid obesity (HR: 1.54, 95% CI: 1.03 to 2.42) were associated with all-cause mortality in the 18–45 years age range, and obesity was associated with lower risk (HR: 0.66, 95% CI: 0.50 to 0.87) in those aged 65+ years. Cancer mortality was raised in underweight individuals (HR: 1.93, 95% CI: 1.03 to 4.10) and respiratory disease mortality raised in those with morbid obesity (HR: 2.17, 95% CI: 1.02 to 5.22).
Overall, being underweight was associated with higher mortality in this disorder group; however, this was potentially accounted for by frailty in older age groups, and obesity was a risk factor for premature mortality in younger ages. The impact of obesity on life expectancy for people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders is clear from our findings. A deeper biological understanding of the relationship between these diseases and schizophrenia will help improve clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere100819
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalGeneral Psychiatry
Issue numbere100819
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2022


  • Body mass index
  • Schizophrenia
  • Mortality
  • Cohort study


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