Mental illnesses shorten life expectancy by a good twenty years

Mental illnesses shorten life expectancy by a good twenty years

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Shorter life expectancy due to mental illness

Researchers have now found that mental illnesses contribute to a drastically reduced life expectancy. Affected people can die up to twenty years earlier due to their illness.

A recent study by Western Sydney University found that mental illnesses in those affected can reduce life expectancy by up to twenty years. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "The Lancet Psychiatry".

What led to reduced life expectancy?

Almost a hundred studies and meta-analyzes on the prevalence of physical comorbidities in people with mental illnesses were evaluated for the study. While suicide was found to account for a significant proportion of premature death in people with mental illness, the majority of reduced life expectancy years were attributable to poor physical health and susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Mental illnesses increase the risk of many diseases

It was also found that mental illnesses are associated with a 1.4 to 2-fold higher risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases compared to the general population. Patients with depression are 40 percent more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or obesity. These diseases have a negative impact on quality of life and recovery and contribute to reduced life expectancy of up to twenty years, the researchers report.

Worse mental health due to illness

The study also found that little progress has been made in addressing these trends, as the number of years of life lost from physical discomfort to people with mental illness may increase. The diseases mentioned above not only reduce life expectancy, they also lead to a massive decrease in quality of life and, in turn, increase physical health stress.

The key to treatment is early intervention

The results of the current study show that avoiding cardiovascular diseases and metabolic health problems should be the main goals for reducing physical complaints in people with mental disorders. The key is early intervention. Indeed, it is much easier and more practicable to prevent these complaints than to try to cure them after they arise, the researchers explain. There is also an urgent need to raise awareness of problems that lead to mental illness. Even some general practitioners could underestimate the effects of mental illness on physical health. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Joseph Firth, Najma Siddiqi, Ai Koyanagi, Dan Siskind, Simon Rosenbaum et al .: The Lancet Psychiatry Commission: a blueprint for protecting physical health in people with mental illness, in The Lancet Psychiatry (query: 18.07.2019), The Lancet Psychiatry

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