The real causes of premature death in mental illness

The mortality gap has stayed consistent but the causes have changed
depressed youth

A Lancet study has revealed a significant gap in life expectancy for people with mental illness.

The research from the Australian National University (ANU) has found that men who are diagnosed with a mental health condition in their lifetime can expect to live 10.2 years less than those who aren’t.

Meanwhile, women with a mental health condition die 7.3 years earlier.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Annette Erlangsen says the study, which analysed medical and hospital data from Denmark from 1994-2014, also found the mortality gap had stayed consistent, despite efforts to address the issue.

“Ten years of life expectancy are lost for those with mental illness,” she says

This is in spite of a concerted effort to address the problem.

While suicide, homicide and accidents were major contributing factors in the gap, the study found those causes of death had declined over the 20-year period.

But death due to cancer and cardiovascular disease had doubled, notes co-author Associate Professor Vladimir Canudas-Romo.

“Overall the mortality gap has stayed the same, but the causes of death have changed,” he says.

Along with cancer, diabetes and heart disease, alcohol is also playing a larger role in the mortality gap.

The research team has called on governments to address the mortality gap by implementing more holistic approaches to dealing with mental illness.

“It is not enough to be simply prescribing some medicine and sending them on their way,” he says.

You can read the Lancet Psychiatry study here.


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