Researchers reviewed 20 review papers from clinical studies that reported mortality risk among mental health problems, substance and alcohol abuse, dementia, autistic spectrum disorders, learning disability and childhood behavioral disorders. These studies included over 1.7 million individuals and over 250,000 deaths. They also used studies and reviews that reported life expectancy and risk of dying by suicide. All results were compared to data for heavy smoking.
According to their findings, “one in four people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year” while smokers consist of roughly 21% of British men and 19% of women.
They discovered that all diagnoses studied had an increased mortality risk similar or greater than heavy smoking. Some of the estimated reductions in life expectancy were found to be as follows:
- Bipolar Disorder: 9 - 20 years
- Schizophrenia: 10 – 20 years
- Drug and Alcohol Abuse: 9 - 24 years
- Recurrent Depression: 7 - 11 years
- Heavy smoking: 8 - 10 years
Despite the fact that this study did not mention the prevalence of smoking among persons with mental illness, the results are still devastating.
There may be many reasons for this phenomenon. For example:
- Psychiatric patients and those with drug and/or alcohol dependence can be more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours.
- Physical health problems may not be taken seriously and treated properly due to the stigma attached to their mental illness.
- Many mental illnesses can create physical health problems and/or worsen pre-existing ones.
- People with serious mental illness may not access healthcare effectively.
- The de-medicalization of mental illness may increase the likelihood that physical health problems go untreated or neglected.
Many mental illnesses reduce life expectancy more than heavy smoking
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