Mental Health Problems Can Be As Deadly As Smoking

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The toll of mental health issues is vastly underestimated. Many see the emotional impacts, but the social, financial, and physical effects of mental health can be equally as devastating as the actual symptoms themselves. In fact, recent research has shown mental health problems including anorexia and recurrent depression are as deadly as smoking roughly 20 cigarettes a day.

The researchers from Oxford University say some serious mental health problems are associated with the same or worse loss of life expectancy as smoking, and people with mental health problems in Britain have the same life expectancy as the general population in North Korea and Bangladesh. The life expectancy is also equivalent to people living in Britain in the 1930’s, according to the study published in World Psychiatry.

The study analyzed data from 20 previous studies including more than 1.7m people and 250,000 deaths to determine the loss in life expectancy for various mental health problems.

The team calculated that smoking 20 cigarettes a day is associated with a loss in life expectancy between eight to ten years. In comparison, the average reduction of life expectancy in people with bipolar disorder was nine and 20 years, 10 to 20 years for schizophrenia, between 9 an 24 years for drug and alcohol abuse, and around seven to 11 years for recurrent depression.

Every mental health condition included in the study was associated with a higher death rate when compared with the general population, with a reduction in life expectancy of between seven and 24 years.

Dr. John Williams, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust said: “People with mental health problems are among the most vulnerable in society. This work emphasizes how crucial it is that they have access to appropriate healthcare and advice, which is not always the case. We now have strong evidence that mental illness is just as threatening to life expectancy as other public health threats such as smoking.”

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