University of Oulu

Protsenko, M., Kerkelä, M., Miettunen, J. et al. Mortality by diseases and medical conditions in the offspring of parents with severe mental illness. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 55, 1649–1657 (2020).

Mortality by diseases and medical conditions in the offspring of parents with severe mental illness

Saved in:
Author: Protsenko, Maria1; Kerkelä, M.1,2; Miettunen, J.3,4;
Organizations: 1Department of Psychiatry, Research Unit of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Information Services Department, Helsinki, Finland
3Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
4Medical Research Center Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
5Research Centre for Child Psychiatry, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
6Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
7Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-11-23


Purpose: The lifespan of people with severe mental illness (SMI) is shorter compared to the general population. There might be common familial pathway leading to a high co-occurrence of somatic disorders and SMI. To study this we explored the long-term mortality for natural causes in the offspring of people with SMI.

Methods: Participants were members of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 (NFBC1966; N = 11,325). The data on cause of deaths of the members were obtained from the Population Register Center until year 2015. The data on hospital-treated psychiatric disorders of parents were obtained from nationwide Care Register for Health Care. Cumulative incidences by age were calculated in the NFBC1966 members having a parent with SMI and those who did not have. We were able to take into account multiple confounders.

Results: Of the total sample of 11,325 offspring, 853 (7.4%) died during the follow-up period, 74 (8.7%) from the study cohort and 779 (91.3%) from the comparison group. These numbers included 160 stillborn children. There were 557 cases of deaths from diseases and medical conditions and 296 deaths from external causes. The adjusted risk ratio for offspring of mothers with SMI was 1.08 (0.72–1.64), and for offspring of fathers with SMI 0.58 (0.36–0.93).

Conclusions: This was the first long-term follow-up study (up to age 49) of all-cause mortality in offspring of parents with SMI. Our findings were contrary to expectations. Offspring of parents with SMI had no increased risk for dying. In fact, the risk for dying in the group of offspring of fathers with SMI was lower than in the comparison group. This study does not support the assumption of common familial pathway leading to a high co-occurrence of somatic disorders and SMI.

see all

Series: Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology
ISSN: 0933-7954
ISSN-E: 1433-9285
ISSN-L: 0933-7954
Volume: 55
Pages: 1649 - 1657
DOI: 10.1007/s00127-019-01781-z
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
Funding: Open access funding provided by University of Oulu including Oulu University Hospital. NFBC1966 received financial support from University of Oulu Grant no. 24000692, Oulu University Hospital Grant no. 24301140, ERDF European Regional Development Fund Grant no. 539/2010 A31592.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.