London: Older people with severe mental disorders are at significantly increased risk of dying from COVID-19, a new study suggests.
The findings indicate that among the elderly, the proportion of deaths due to COVID-19 was almost fourfold for those with severe mental disorders compared to non-mentally ill people in the same age.
"We see a high excess mortality due to COVID-19 among the elderly with severe mental disorders, which gives us reason to consider whether this group should be given priority for vaccines," said researcher Martin Maripuu, Associate Professor at Umea University in Sweden.
For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, the team studied data covering the entire Swedish population over the age of 20 during the period.
Among citizens with severe mental disorder, 130 people died from COVID-19 during this period, which corresponded to 0.1 per cent of the group.
Among people who had not been diagnosed with a severe mental disorder, the mortality rate was almost halved, 0.06 per cent.
Above all, after the age of 60, people with severe mental disorders had a higher excess mortality compared with the general population of the same age.
In the age group 60-79 years, death from COVID-19 was almost four times as common among people with a severe mental disorders.
In the study, severe mental disorder was referred to as psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The study did not include depression or anxiety in the term, although these conditions can also be severe, the team said.
"It might be that severe mental disorders can lead to premature biological ageing, that the disease impairs health and the immune system in general or that this group has other risk factors such as obesity," Maripuu said.
"It is always important to address both, mental and physical health problems of people with these disorders," Maripuu added.