The problem can be seen to a high degree in all three countries. Many of the deaths are however avoidable. The differences in relation to individuals without psychiatric disorders can primarily be explained by mortality as a result of diseases being two to three times higher than expected.
Individuals with mental disorders are also at a significantly higher risk of dying of suicide, violence or accidents, reports the Nordic School of Public Health’s research group consisting of Professor Mika Gissler, Professor Merete Nordentoft, Thomas Munk Laursen, Ph.D., Professor Kristian Wahlbeck and Jeanette Westman, Ph.D.
There are several reasons for the excess mortality rate. Physical diseases are often overshadowed by the psychological symptoms and thereby overlooked by the medical and health care services.
– Stigmatization and discrimination can both prevent individuals with mental disabilities and disorders from seeking help and be a reason for unequal treatment in the medical and health care services, says Kristian Wahlbeck of the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland.
Poverty, social exclusion and isolation limit access to care. At the same time, there are great medical care needs in this vulnerable group, where lifestyle diseases as a result of smoking, lack of exercise and other risk factors are more common than in the general population.
The researchers see solutions in the creation of targeted health promotion programmes. Individuals with mental disabilities or disorders should also be provided improved access to care. Efforts to prevent suicide and violence must furthermore be intensified.
The Nordic School of Public Health is responsible for an action plan on mental health, on assignment by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The project on life expectancy for individuals with mental disabilities and disorders has been realized by the Nordic School of Public Health through the frame of the action plan. Development of the mental health care services will be one of the areas of priority regarding health during Finland’s chairmanship of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2011.

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