A new study reveals a startling life expectancy for those who suffer with mental health issues. Researchers from the Biomedical Research Centre for mental health at the Maudsley Hospital in London examined the medical records of over 30,000 patients in the UK to determine life expectancy. All of the clients they studied were diagnosed with serious mental health issues including major depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and substance abuse. They discovered that the majority of the people in the study were dying prematurely from treatable physical illnesses, such as cancer, stroke and heart attack, rather than from suicide or acts of violence. Those with the shortest life expectancy; nearly 18 years shorter than the average age of 81; were women with mood issues or schizophrenia. Men with similar mental health challenges saw a decreased life expectancy of almost 15 years. The researchers think that these findings can be attributed to many factors, including prolonged use of anti-psychotic medication, substance abuse, risky lifestyles and social and cultural means.
Dr. Rob Stewart, of the Biomedical Research Centre, said, “These results show the enormous impact mental health conditions can have on general health and survival.” He added, “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 programs.”
Jane Harris, from the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said “Action must be taken; we cannot carry on tolerating the fact that people are dying from preventable illnesses, due to a health system which treats mental health patients as second class citizens.” And Care Services Minister Paul Burstow concluded by adding, “Our strategy, ‘No health without mental health’, aims to improve the physical health of people with mental health problems, reduce premature deaths, and ensure evidence-based mental healt h therapies are available for all who need them.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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