Science and Tech


Mental Illness Shortens Life More Than Smoking: Study

According to the research, mental illness might cut life expectancy by seven to 24 years — more than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
Posted at 2:15 PM, May 23, 2014

​A new study says mental illness might actually take years off your life.

According to research from the University of Oxford, mental illness may cut life expectancy by seven to 24 years — more than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

"Patients with bipolar or schizophrenia disorder may shave as much as 10 to 20 years off their lives, while the average heavy smoker loses eight to 10." (Via KOAA)

The researchers looked at 20 studies that examined mental illness and death.

They found schizophrenia can cut 10 to 20 years off your life, bipolar disorder can trim a lifespan by nine to 20 years, recurrent depression seven to 11 years and alcohol and drug abuse nine to 24 years. (Via Flickr / Helga Weber)

According to the study's lead author, those dramatic drops might have to do with certain behaviors more common in those with mental disorders.

Quoted by HealthDay, she said, "High-risk behaviors are common in psychiatric patients, especially drug and alcohol abuse, and they are more likely to die by suicide."

And the head of neuroscience and mental health at U.K. health charity Wellcome Trust says the stark findings might be cause for alarm.

National Post quotes him as saying: "We now have strong evidence that mental illness is just as threatening to life expectancy as other public health threats such as smoking. This work emphasizes how crucial it is that they have access to appropriate health care and advice, which is not always the case."

Researchers are quick to note the study found earlier death was associated with mental illness but not necessarily caused by it. Still, they hope their findings will make mental health a higher priority.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, 1 in 4 American adults has a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.