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Increasing life expectancy in schizophrenia

Research awardData Science programme

Funding period 2017-2019

InstitutionCardiff University

LocationUnited Kingdom


How do genetic risk factors impact the physical health of someone with schizophrenia?  

The project

On average, people with schizophrenia die 20 years earlier than the general population.

To tackle this, we need to build a deeper understanding of the condition, including how it affects physical health.

In recent years, we have gained important insights into genetic risk factors for schizophrenia. But we don’t yet know how these factors affect specific symptoms or the physical health of someone with schizophrenia. This information could enable us to create tailored interventions informed by genetics. 

Dr James Walters and his team at Cardiff University are finding out - combining genetic, health and social data to build the evidence for better, targeted treatments for schizophrenia.

The process

James will be linking the world’s largest genetic sample on people with schizophrenia with NHS and other public data.

The sample incorporates genetic data from 6,000 people with schizophrenia – but doesn’t include clinical information such as the background of patients, the kinds of symptoms experienced or any indication of how severe their condition is. 

So, for the first time, James is linking the sample to pre-existing clinical NHS data so we gain a far greater understanding of the real-life impact that genetics can have on schizophrenia.

Specifically, James will determine what physical health problems, like cardiovascular disease and obesity, are associated with genetic factors in people living with schizophrenia.

The potential

The findings from James’ project can provide us with vital understanding around genetics to inform treatments for schizophrenia and identify people with the condition who are at risk of developing serious physical illnesses.  

James’ work could provide evidence for creating holistic interventions that consider the overall health risks associated with schizophrenia. 

His work will build on research to address the decreased life expectancy of those living with schizophrenia.

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