Mental illness shortens life like 20 cigarettes a day

Mental health advocates will tell you that trying to get the country to pay attention to — and maybe even provide a little empathy for — the problem of mental illness in America has been a long slog.

Imagine if the fervor for eliminating smoking could be harnessed to make significant inroads to help those with mental illness. Perhaps a study will make that at least a slight possibility. It says that mental illness can shorten a life on the same order as smoking 20 cigarettes a day, NPR reports.

They found that the mortality risk for women with postpartum depression was more than seven times higher than that of a heavy smoker. People with substance abuse disorders and anorexia had higher mortality rates than smokers as well. And while chain smokers generally die eight to 10 years earlier than nonsmokers, schizophrenia can shave off up to 20 years. The study was published Thursday in the journal World Psychiatry.

The researchers at Oxford University looked at over 1.5 million people in 20 scientific reviews to set the benchmarks. Dr. Seena Fazel, the lead researcher, says obviously suicide has a significant role in the shorter life span, but that doesn’t explain everything.

They found that the mortality risk for women with postpartum depression was more than seven times higher than that of a heavy smoker. People with substance abuse disorders and anorexia had higher mortality rates than smokers as well. And while chain smokers generally die eight to 10 years earlier than nonsmokers, schizophrenia can shave off up to 20 years. The study was published Thursday in the journal World Psychiatry.

The numbers suggest that governments need to make mental health care more of a priority, Fazel says: “So much emphasis has been placed on reducing smoking and smoking deaths. Mental illness doesn’t receive the same attention in public health and public policy.”

Fazel says people with mental illness often get unequal treatment at the emergency room and that, too, could be a contributor.

One of the few comments worth reading on the NPR site notes the problem. Treating cancer and other illnesses can be be easier.

A big part of this is that mental health treatment is so hit and miss. Mostly miss. Finding a councilor that fits a person is like trying to find a pastor or minister that is the right fit for the person. There is no uniformity in treatment when the patient finds said practitioner. Projected wellness is also an unknown. It’s essentially a money pit that in most cases more closely resembles religious practice and philosophy as apposed to “medical treatment”. The beginning middle and end of mental health treatment present themselves as confusing unknowns to most prospective patients. Since these issues are not clear cut, and the majority of the field of mental health is largely inept, is it any wonder that prospective patients are not inspired to seek help? The litmus for success in these fields seems to be, “They didn’t kill themselves! We’re doing a good job.” Add the stigma attached to mental health issues themselves and we have a car that does not go. At least not well or far.

  • MrE85

    Fervor?

  • Joe

    Pretty sure the mentally ill also disproportionately smoke about a pack a day as well, there might be overlap?