Life expectancy of people with serious mental illness significantly lower than UK average

Research from the Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) in London has suggested that people with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder have a life expectancy 10 to 15 years lower than the UK average.

In reaching their conclusion the BRC tracked the lives of more than 30,000 patients by using electronic medical records. They found that many patients with a serious mental illness died early from heart attacks, strokes and cancer rather than suicide or violence.

The researchers believe a combination of factors – higher-risk lifestyles, long-term anti-psychotic drug use and social disadvantage – may be to blame.

The study showed that life expectancy across all the illnesses studied was well below the UK average of 77.4 years for men and 81.6 years for women. Those most affected were women with schizoaffective disorder – problems with mood or sometimes abnormal thoughts – whose average life expectancy was reduced by 17.5 years, and men with schizophrenia, whose lives were shortened by about 14.6 years.

The Biomedical Research Centre’s Dr Rob Stewart told the BBC website that people with serious mental health conditions tended not to look after themselves as well.

“These results show the enormous impact mental health conditions can have on general health and survival,” he said.

“The effects we see here are stronger than well-known risk factors like smoking, obesity or diabetes.

“We need to improve the general health of people suffering from mental disorders by making sure they have access to healthcare of the same standard, quality and range as other people, and by developing effective screening programmes.”

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