Maggie Lee is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Actuarial Studies and Business Analytics at Macquarie University and a PhD candidate in Actuarial Studies at the Australian National University. She has over 10 years of experience in both traditional and non-traditional areas of actuarial practice through industry and academic roles. Her research interests are in health and health policy. As part of her research, she has been working with the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care to investigate the health and social outcomes of individuals living with co-morbid mental and physical health conditions.
Title: Mortality analysis of mental health cohorts with co-morbid physical conditions in Australia
Author(s): Maggie Lee
Introduction: Studies, both in Australia and globally, have consistently shown that individuals with mental health conditions have an increased risk of premature mortality. In recent studies, there has been a growing focus on the reasons for this premature mortality. It has been shown that a significant proportion of people with serious mental illness who die before the average life expectancy do so due to physical health conditions, losing anywhere between 10 and 36 years of expected life. The high rate of physical comorbidity also increases the personal, social and economic burden of mental illness across the lifespan.
Method: This study will explore the life expectancy outcomes of people living with co-morbid mental and physical health conditions for the entire Australian population using a unique linked government dataset. The study extends current research by exploring the mortality and life expectancy outcomes of individuals that have co-morbid mental and physical health issues for specific mental health diagnosis groups using actuarial methods of mortality analysis. We use a harmonised panel of mortality metrics, including traditional mortality ratios and life expectancy measures to modern approaches of life years lost which incorporate the age-of-onset of mental health conditions.
Results & Findings: We hypothesise that there are statistically significant interactions between mental and physical comorbidities and quantify the impact of these relationships on premature mortality.
Discussion: The results of the study will be of national and international importance for health policy. Internationally, the World Health Organisation has called for national targets to reduce the excess mortality among people living with mental illness. In Australia, improving the physical health of people living with mental illness is one of eight priority areas in its national approach to mental health. This study will therefore add Australian-specific insights to understand and improve the wellbeing of people with mental illness.