New professor at NCRR

Thomas Munk Laursen has been awarded a professorship at the National Centre for Register-based Research (NCRR). Here, he is examining why people with severe mental disorders have such a high excess mortality.

2016.11.02 | Ingrid Marie Fossum

On the notice board, Thomas keeps track of all the places his research has taken him. A new collaboration with an Australian researcher might result in a trip to Brisbane in the near future.

What is your field of research?

“At the National Centre for Register-based Research, we primarily look at mental disorders. My area is to examine how things are going with people who suffer from severe mental disorders - especially persons with bipolar affective disorder or schizophrenia. In particular, I’ve looked at why they have such a high excess mortality - they actually die 15-20 years earlier than the general population.

It’s a well known fact that persons with severe mental disorders have a high excess mortality as a result of accidents or suicide. But the main explanation for the early deaths is that they are more often struck by physical illness, for which they are treated poorly or late. In many cases, the physical illness in not discovered at all. This may also be due to the side effects of their medicine. Persons with severe mental disorders also have a lifestyle characterised by a lack of exercise, and as such they can be at risk of complications from obesity.

In our research, we use data from the various Danish registers to examine why the vast excess mortality occurs. In this way, we can hopefully help decrease the excess mortality so that people with severe mental disorder don’t have to die 15-20 years early.”

What currently occupies you on the research front?

“Recently, we have been given the opportunity to collaborate with the Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research (IPSYCH) on examining the genetics of persons with severe mental disorders. This is done via data from the heel samples that are collected from all of us when we are three days old. That’s why we’re currently examining if there are genetic reasons for the excess mortality of persons with severe mental disorders. Other researchers are looking into if their genes constitute a risk factor for developing severe mental disorders.

In addition, the National Centre for Register-based Research recently entered into a collaboration with the Australian researcher John McGrath from the University of Queensland. He has been awarded a Niels Bohr professorship, which I am to be a part of. We will, among other things, become part of several international consortia - the Global Burden of Disease project and the World Mental Health Survey Initiative - which examine the treatment of mental disorders worldwide. Denmark is actually not included in the survey as of yet, so my job, in collaboration with McGrath, will be to ensure that the data from the Danish population is examined as well.”

CV

2016 Professor, National Centre for Register-based Research, Aarhus University (AU)
2009 Associate professor, National Centre for Register-based Research, AU
2006 Assistant professor, National Centre for Register-based Research, AU
2006 PhD degree in medicine, AU
2004 PhD student, National Centre for Register-based Research, AU
2001 Statistician, research assistant, National Centre for Register-based Research, AU
1998 Statistician, research assistant, AU
1997 Master of Science, statistician 

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