For the study, Jen-Huoy Tsay and colleagues at the National Yang Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C., compared the results of appendicitis sufferers, looking specifically at patients with and without mental illness, including schizophrenia and different major mental illnesses.
The research team used Taiwanese National Health Insurance (NHI) hospital-discharge data and compared the likelihood of a ruptured appendix among almost 100,000 people aged 15 and over who were hospitalised for acute appendicitis in Taiwan during the period 1997-2001.
It was found that a ruptured appendix occurred in 46.7 percent of the schizophrenic patients, in 43.4 percent of the patients with other major mental disorders, and in 25.1 percent of the patients with no major mental diseases. More ruptured cases were found among males and older patients.
After accounting for age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and hospital characteristics, the team found that patients with schizophrenia were still almost three times as likely to suffer a ruptured appendix as the general population.
The presence of affective psychoses or other major mental disorders did not, however, remain associated with a significantly increased risk of rupture.
The results have suggested that even though the NHI program reduces financial barriers to care for people with mentally illness, schizophrenics are still at a disadvantage in obtaining timely treatment for physical problems.
The research is published in the online open access journal, BMC Public Health.