Health Services Research & Development

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Soreca I, Tighe CA, Bramoweth AD. The Intersection of Sleep Apnea and Severe Mental Illness in Veterans. Psychosomatics. 2019 Sep 1; 60(5):481-487.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: Individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) have a high prevalence of risk factors for sleep apnea, but these risk factors often go unrecognized, partly due to the overlap among sleep apnea, somatic conditions, and symptoms (e.g., obesity, daytime sleepiness), leading to potential under-recognition of sleep apnea in a high-risk population. OBJECTIVE: The objective of our study was to compare sleep apnea prevalence and clinical features among Veterans with and without SMI. METHOD: Data for the current analyses were drawn from an administrative dataset of 33,818 United States Military Veterans with a primary care visit in calendar year 2007. The medical record data included demographic characteristics, and medical, psychiatric, and sleep diagnoses. RESULTS: Veterans with SMI had a significantly higher prevalence of sleep apnea than those without SMI. Younger Veterans with SMI had a higher prevalence of sleep apnea relative to older Veterans with SMI and Veterans with SMI and sleep apnea had a greater number of medical comorbidities than Veterans with SMI and no sleep apnea. CONCLUSION: In a large sample of Veterans, those with SMI were at greater risk of having comorbid sleep apnea. Furthermore, Veterans with comorbid SMI and sleep apnea were at greater risk for increased rates of comorbid medical disorders. Sleep apnea appears to be a key risk factor for increased morbidity in Veterans with an SMI diagnosis, highlighting the importance of treating sleep apnea in a challenging patient population.