a massive study of the entire swedish population of people who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder reveals that, over about 8 years, they are 82% more likely to die than non-sufferers. that is a big & important effect size.  

original article: Fernández de la Cruz et al., 2024 (British Medical Journal (Clin Res Ed)), reported in: The Telegraph by Michael Searles on 18th January 2024

this story was in episode 36 #OCD #mortality #mental #health

the error bar says

having permanently put down The Daily Mail, the error bar this month picked up The Daily Telegraph - not necessarily an improvement in journalistic standards, but they have always been rather spiffingly good with science & technology.

last month the Telegraph produced a small report on a big story - that people who suffer with obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, are 82% more likely to die, from any cause, than people without the condition.

the data come from a retrospective analysis of nearly 700 thousand medical records in Sweden. 61,378 people with OCD were matched with siblings, & with 613,780 people without OCD. medical records were tracked for an average of 8 years. deaths & their causes were recorded & classified.

over the study period, from 1973 to 2020, 4787 people with OCD died, compared to 30619 controls. that's 8.1% of people with OCD, & 5.1% of people without. the OCD group were more likely to die, in particular from suicide & accidents, but respiratory, circulatory, metabolic, & mental health causes were also much higher than in controls, by about 40 to 60%.

is obsessive compulsive disorder really that deadly?


Sweden & the Scandinavian countries have historically been excellent sources of lifelong medical histories, particularly for psychiatric conditions. & no-one can criticize this study on the basis of its sample size, since every single Swedish patient with OCD is included, so long as they were at least 6 years old at the time of diagnosis. then every patient was age- and sex-matched with 10 control participants.

this study - unlikely many covered by the error bar - is definitive. they're not sampling the population, they are studying the entire population. there is very little measurement error because the outcome variable is death & its causes. this is a comprehensive picture of the increased mortality of Swedish people with OCD over the last fifty years.

on average, then, if you live in Sweden for around 8 years & have OCD, you are 82% more likely to die from any cause than people without OCD.

this is a massively-increased risk. it is important to say, of course, that this risk is both relative & time-bound. the absolute risk of death over the approximately 8 year period is 8% for OCD & 5% for controls.

the overall long-term risk of death is 100% for all study participants.


mental health matters