I have often heard having a serious mental illness it worse than diabetes and smoking. Mental illness is 'as bad for life expectancy as smoking', experts warn

Mental illness is 'as bad for life expectancy as smoking' link

  • One thing to keep in mind when evaluating statistics relevant to this is the strong causal links between various physical ailments and mental health. For example, depression can lead to reduced activity, which can lead to obesity, which increases risk of heart disease and diabetes; but at the same time, obesity or diabetes can lead to depression, which makes choosing a true cause of death difficult. There are similar issues with the rate of drug use among the mentally ill, eg the those with bipolar disorder use tobacco at a much higher rate: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4423166
    – LazyGadfly
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 15:26
  • @LazyGadfly many medications that are commonly used like Zyprexa and Seroquel cause diabetes, weight gain and other health issues. I refuse to believe that those diagnosed with bipolar are simple unhealthier although it is plausible. The reality is atypical antipsychotics are not approved to treat dementia because they have shown to cause early death. I am not going to say treatment causes early death but just saying these people are lazy or choosing unhealthy life choices when this medications suppress dopamine receptors in the brain isn't logical. If someone dies from diabetes after
    – William
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 16:46
  • Taking Zyprexa in which causes diabetes they do not in fact list Zyprexa as the cause of death. So yes determine causation is difficult.
    – William
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 16:48
  • @LazyGadfly a viable claim suggesting causation cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/01/15/healthmag.antipsychotic.sudden.death/…
    – William
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 21:59
  • That still seems like more correlation, not necessarily causation, especially when you consider this quote from the link: "Sudden cardiac death usually occurs when multiple risk factors are present," he explains. "When you add one, it's kind of like the straw that broke the camel's back." And given the evidence that causation can go both ways between heart disease & mental illness (link to Washington Post article from 2017, I'm hesitant to try to lay the blame solely on medications, especially when you consider (contd...)
    – LazyGadfly
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


The daily mail article faithfully summarizes the results of this scientific article.

Risks of all‐cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders: a meta‐review

A meta‐review, or review of systematic reviews, was conducted to explore the risks of all‐cause and suicide mortality in major mental disorders. ... All disorders had an increased risk of all‐cause mortality compared with the general population, and many had mortality risks larger than or comparable to heavy smoking. ... The excess risks of mortality and suicide in all mental disorders justify a higher priority for the research, prevention, and treatment of the determinants of premature death in psychiatric patients.

The questioner expressed a particular interest in bipolar disorder, and deaths by natural causes as opposed to suicide. Table 3 reviews research that shows bipolar disorder has a reduced life expectancy between 8.5 and 13 years. The discussion mentions that people with bipolar disorder commit suicide at more than 10 times the rate of the general population, but they don't break down the reduced life expectancy by suicide vs not suicide.

Other research articles come to a broadly similar conclusion.

Mortality in Mental Disorders and Global Disease Burden Implications A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

... The median years of potential life lost (due to mental illness) was 10 years (n = 24 studies). We estimate that 14.3% of deaths worldwide, or approximately 8 million deaths each year, are attributable to mental disorders.

The introduction of this scientific paper reviews the existing scientific literature. It summarizes the existing science as follows:

People with severe mental illness (SMI), particularly schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder, have an average mortality rate that is 2‐3 times higher than the general population [1-3], corresponding to a 10‐25 year shortened life expectancy [2-9]. The most common causes of death in people with SMI are physical diseases [10].

This review article found that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to die from natural causes than the general population. This is particularly true for cardio-vascular disorders.

Premature mortality from general medical illnesses among persons with bipolar disorder: a review.

RESULTS: ... mortality ratios for death from natural causes and from specific general medical conditions, such as cardiovascular, respiratory, cerebrovascular, and endocrine disorders, were significantly higher among patients with bipolar spectrum disorders in most studies. ... Cumulatively, cardiovascular disorder appeared to be the most consistent cause of excess mortality in larger studies.

CONCLUSIONS: The available evidence suggests that bipolar spectrum disorders are associated with increased premature mortality secondary to general medical illnesses. Unhealthy lifestyle, biological factors, adverse pharmacologic effects, and disparities in health care are possible underlying causes for this excess mortality.

Conclusion: Serious mental illness poses serious physical health risks and is strongly linked to shorter life span.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .