Study shows anxiety and depression lower life expectancy

Study shows anxiety and depression lower life expectancy

By Ian Birch

I've reported previously for Mental Healthy that people with severe mental illnesses who take anti-psychotic drugs have a significantly reduced life expectancy. Now for the first time a new British study, published in the British Medical Journal, has established that anxiety and depression can also lower life expectancy -- though not so dramatically.

Researchers at University College London and Edinburgh University analysed statistics from the decade from 1994 to 2004 with a sample size of nearly 70,000 patients.

They discovered that even people with mild, rather than moderate or severe, anxiety and depression, have slightly reduced life expectancies.

The researchers ensured they took into account other health and lifestyle factors such as exercise, weight, diabetes, alcohol consumption and smoking. 

Dr David Batty, a Wellcome Trust research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL and senior author on the study, said: "This increased mortality is not simply due to people with higher levels of psychological distress having poorer health behaviours."

Whilst the causes of the link are not clear in this study, it is thought, that a deterioration in physical health caused by psychiatric medications is primarily responsible for reducing life expectancy in people with schiozphrenia e.g. by developing cardiovascular (heart) problems or diabetes.

Paul Jenkins, chief executive of the charity Rethink, told BBC News: "Sadly, these findings do not come as a surprise.

"While this study looks at depression and anxiety, people with severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia die, on average, 20 years earlier than the rest of us. It's an absolute scandal.
"There is a huge lack of awareness amongst health professionals about the increased risk of physical illness for this group, which means people are dying needlessly every day."
Charlotte Fantlli from Mental Healthy says: "Whilst these finding make sad reading, they are also positive in the fact they wake us up to the real 'physical' side of mental illness. Hopefully this will make doctors keener to treat mental health problems with the same importance as physical ones.
"Mental illness has too long been thought of as 'in the mind' when psychiatric problems have a profound reaction on the body. Perhaps studies like these will go some way towards making a positive change."
Mental Healthy are firm believers in aiding recovery of mental illness with a positive lifestyle. Good diet and exercise can dramatically increase life expectancy, please see our food for good mental health and fitness sections for more information.
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