Several studies have investigated whether schizophrenia gets worse with age. People with schizophrenia may be more likely to have conditions that worsen with age, but schizophrenia symptoms may worsen, stay the same, or improve over time.

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that affects how a person interprets reality. It can change the way they feel, think, and interact with others.

People with schizophrenia may develop other health conditions as they age. The age at which they develop schizophrenia can also affect their symptoms.

This article discusses how aging affects schizophrenia, what symptoms people may experience later in life, and how aging with schizophrenia affects physical and mental health. It also discusses remission from schizophrenia and ways to treat schizophrenia as a person ages.

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People with schizophrenia tend to age more quickly and have a shorter life expectancy than those without the condition.

This may be due to a combination of factors. Schizophrenia can physically affect a person’s body in several ways. It may also make them more likely to have accidents. Additionally, people with schizophrenia may be at a higher risk of suicide than the general population.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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They also may have an increased risk of developing certain age-related chronic health conditions earlier on, such as:

Researchers are still investigating why people with schizophrenia physically age more quickly. However, some studies suggest that people with schizophrenia have higher levels of oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress happens when a person’s body loses its ability to repair cell damage over time. This leads to cell and tissue damage, aging a person’s body more quickly.

Although experts believe that oxidative stress may have a link to schizophrenia, they do not yet know the relationship. Oxidative stress may result from schizophrenia or factors related to schizophrenia, such as:

  • effects of medication
  • the stress of experiencing psychotic symptoms
  • difficulties with performing daily activities
  • lack of social support
  • inadequate healthcare
  • childhood abuse or trauma
  • lifestyle factors, including:
    • diet
    • less physical activity
    • heavy smoking

Researchers also believe that a person’s age when they first develop schizophrenia may slightly affect their symptoms. Having schizophrenia at a younger age may lead to more severe symptoms.

Read about the age of onset for schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia symptoms later in life

People with schizophrenia can have gradual changes in their thinking, social functioning, and mood before experiencing symptoms of psychosis.

Schizophrenia symptoms can vary but include:

  • Symptoms of psychosis: These are changes in the way people think, act, and experience the world, such as hallucinations, delusions, and changes to their thinking or movement.
  • Negative symptoms: These include loss of motivation or loss of interest and enjoyment in daily activities. People with these symptoms may withdraw from social life or have difficulty showing emotions.
  • Cognitive symptoms: These include difficulties with attention, memory, and concentration. People may have difficulty making decisions, learning, or following conversations.

There does not appear to be much recent research on symptoms of schizophrenia in later life. However, older research from 2006 found that schizophrenia symptoms can vary with age. They may worsen, stay the same, or improve over time.

Read about life expectancy with schizophrenia.

People with schizophrenia may be more likely to develop some physical health conditions at a younger age than those without schizophrenia.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties. COPD often affects older people who smoke.

A 2018 research review found that people with schizophrenia may be more likely to develop COPD. The authors suggest that this could be due to smoking more often from a younger age.

Congestive heart failure

People with schizophrenia may have an increased risk of several heart conditions, including heart failure. Experts believe schizophrenia can raise a person’s blood pressure and heart rate, at least partially as a result of medication side effects.

This can make a person with schizophrenia more likely to have fatal heart conditions as they age.


A research review from 2018 found that people with schizophrenia have an increased risk of developing dementia as they age. However, the authors could not determine the exact link.

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a brain condition that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements. Experts believe that having schizophrenia may increase a person’s risk of developing PD later in life.

This may be because schizophrenia affects a brain chemical called dopamine, which also plays a part in the development of PD. Side effects from schizophrenia medications may also increase a person’s risk of PD.

Read about how schizophrenia affects the brain.


People with schizophrenia may be more likely to develop diabetes as they age. Scientists believe this may be due to several complex factors, such as:

  • lifestyle
  • genetics
  • environmental factors


Some research suggests that people with schizophrenia have about a 50% greater risk of dying as a result of cancer. They are also more at risk of certain cancer types, such as:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about half of people with schizophrenia also experience other mental health conditions. They can have an increased risk of some mental health conditions as they age, including depression.

People with schizophrenia may also be more at risk of experiencing suicidal ideation throughout their lives. However, they are most at risk during their first decade with the condition. The risk decreases if a person develops schizophrenia later in life.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 1 in 3 people with schizophrenia experience remission from symptoms.

Treatment can help a person manage schizophrenia symptoms and their impact on quality of life. However, people who recover from schizophrenia may have periods when their symptoms return.

Sticking to a schizophrenia treatment plan improves a person’s likelihood of remission.

Schizophrenia requires treatment throughout a person’s life. Medication, therapy, and lifestyle strategies can help a person effectively manage schizophrenia symptoms as they age.

Antipsychotic medications

Antipsychotic medications often remain effective as people age. However, a person’s age can influence the medications and doses that a healthcare professional will prescribe for them. Healthcare professionals may prescribe lower doses of medications for older people.

Psychosocial intervention

Psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia include types of psychotherapy and training to help people manage their symptoms. Studies have shown that interventions can improve symptoms or delay the effects of schizophrenia.

Lifestyle changes

People with schizophrenia can help prevent complications and improve their health as they age by maintaining certain lifestyle habits, including:

  • eating a nutritious diet
  • staying physically active
  • stopping or avoiding smoking

Read more about treatment for schizophrenia.

The following are answers to some questions people frequently ask about schizophrenia.

How long do schizophrenia patients live?

According to the NIMH, people with schizophrenia are more likely to have a shorter life expectancy. The NIMH estimates the average life span of a person with schizophrenia in the United States to be 28.5 years shorter than the life span of the larger population.

What causes schizophrenia to get worse?

Regularly drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol or misusing drugs can make schizophrenia symptoms worse. Not following treatment plans can also worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Mental health resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.

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As they age, people with schizophrenia may be more at risk of developing several health conditions earlier than people without schizophrenia. They might also be more at risk of suicide or other mental health conditions.

Several treatments can help improve quality of life for people with schizophrenia. Lifestyle strategies can also help a person manage their symptoms.