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14.04.2022


Old-school psychiatrists live longer

When psychiatrists were not yet prescribing psychotropics, they would lay their clients on couches and have deep conversations with them, hoping to discover neuroses that were making their clients sick. According to a 1999 study, the mortality rate of these old-fashioned psychiatrists was much lower than you would expect based on the statistics.


Old-school psychiatrists live longer


Study
Edward Jeffery, an American retired industrial engineer, determined the death rates of psychiatrists between 1952-1982. At that time, psychiatrists were male and of European descent.

Jeffery was able to find that psychiatrists had a 48 percent lower mortality rate than average white men.

Results
Psychiatrists, like other medical professionals, receive a generous salary. A high income lowers the risk of death. Yet the mortality rate of psychiatrists was even lower than that of their fellow physicians.

In the 50-64 age group, the mortality rate of psychiatrists was even 44 percent lower than that of their medical colleagues.


Old-school psychiatrists live longer


Explanation
Part of the explanation for the phenomenon may be that old-fashioned psychiatrists remarkably often come from Jewish backgrounds, where the average life expectancy is relatively high. However, Jeffery was able to show that even if all psychiatrists had been of Jewish descent, that would not explain the psychiatrists' low mortality rates.

The explanation Jeffery puts forward is that the old-fashioned psychiatrists also had to undergo psychoanalytic treatment during their training. Any psychological defects - neuroses - could have come to light, so that the psychiatrists had the opportunity to adjust, weaken or even solve them. Because of their training, the psychiatrists were more likely to be mentally healthy, Jeffery said.

According to studies, these neuroses increase the risk of death, partly because they can cause stress and thus weaken the immune system.

"If neurosis increases the risk of premature death and if psychoanalysis eliminates or reduces the severity of neurosis, one would expect the death rate for psychoanalyzed individuals to be lower," writes Jeffery.

Source:
J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 2001 Winter;49(1):103-11.

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