Mental Illness Worse For Longevity Than Smoking


More than 25 percent of people every year suffer from a treatable mental illness.: image via blog.puravidabracelets.comMore than 25 percent of people every year suffer from a treatable mental illness.: image via blog.puravidabracelets.comIf you smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day, your average life span is 8 to 10 years less than the person who never smoked.  That's a lot of years.  But data from 20 different studies involving more than 1.7 million people show researchers from Oxford University that people with mental illnesses die, on average, even earlier than those who are regular or heavy smokers.....

Surprisingly, mental health disorders have not been given the public health attention that smoking, alcohol, and drugs have, although mental health issues may lead to these abuses. And, just as smoking can cause heart disease and stroke, so too can mental illness. Few people really die of a 'broken heart' or 'extreme sadness;' they die of heart disease or stroke.

But taking these factors into consideration, the multi-study data released by the Oxford researchers in World Psychiatry show that persons with schizophrenia, on average, die 10 to 20 years earlier than people with no mental illnesses.  Those with bi-polar disease have an average life expectancy of 9 to 20 years shorter, those with recurrent depression 7 to 11 years shorter, and those with drug and alcohol abuse have a 9 to 24 year shorter life expectancy than those with no mental illness.

Though the study does not show a direct causal relationship between mental illness and death, links between mental illness and physical illness have been clearly and frequently demonstrated. 

"Many causes of mental health problems have physical consequences," said Dr. Seena Fazel, psychiatric researcher, and co-author of the study.  "... and mental illness worsens the prognosis of a range of physical illnesses, especially heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  Unfortunately, people with mental illness may not access health care effectively."

Another problem noted by Fazel is that because of the stigma of mental illness, patients may not even receive the physical health care they need.  But Fazel and his colleagues are hopeful that the Oxford study will "push governments and health providers to place a much higher priority on mental health."