A new study has recently proven that mental diseases decrease lifespan more than tobacco smoking does!
Tobacco smoking is noxious to the health and rips off years from the life from smokers. However, it has been seen that mental illnesses could prove to be worse – decrease lifespan by 10-20 years. As a consequence, people die younger and younger.
Increasing life span is yet another dream of mankind. Wanting to live for longer is one of those desires characteristic of human beings. However, the well-known trend of decreased life span, which seems to be a feature of our modern world, is much of a turn-off.
Why such a trend?
Our lifestyle has drastically changed from what it used to be decades ago, impacting on our health, both mental and physical, such that the average life span has been reduced. Many reasons are behind this: increase in diseases, unhealthy habits like smoking, pollution leading to physical ailments, just to mention a few. Smoking stands out among these, as it is one of the most talked-about reasons.
While cigarette smoking has been linked with cancer, thereby decreasing the average life span, serious mental illness (SMI) has been shown to exceed it in impacting negatively on life span. SMI has more influence on lifespan because the person affected may succumb easily to suicide and other behaviours that could lead to his death.
Mental Illness The Hitman!
Researchers from the Oxford University analysed more than 400 scientific papers to come this conclusion. Their paper was published in the journal World Psychiatry. The mean lifespan in the UK is 79.5. Heavy smoking will easily steal some 8 to 10 years from this time limit. That is large enough, right? However, from the analysis of the experts, it was seen that mental illness can crop off twice many more years than that; around 10-20 years. Mental illness exposes the person to suicidal thoughts. It also makes the person more vulnerable to taking to drugs detrimental to the health, and so much more…
Experts suggested that, perhaps, the people affected by mental illness do not receive the same quality of assistance and support from doctors. This could explain the great difference in the impact of smoking and mental illness on lifespan. Physical health problems are easier to diagnose and to deal with, while mental health is more stigmatised. However, the different mental illnesses differ as to their effect on lifespan. Bipolar disorder decrease lifespan by 9-20 years, while those suffering from depression may be at risk of having 7-11 years less of their average lifespan.
What makes mental diseases more complicated is that, in addition to the mental disorder, the person affected may also develop physical diseases with time: it is common for mentally ill people to have respiratory problems, sexual troubles, and even heart diseases. Pregnant women suffering from mental illnesses may also have complication. Mental illnesses are very much stigmatised in our societies, such that the person needing medical assistance does not reach out to the services available because of shame, not wanting to bear the brunt of people’s comments and reactions, which further worsen their case.
Painting a gloomy picture of the situation won’t do. Change has to occur, and one of the researchers, Fazel S., are optimistic about it. Drugs and psychological treatments are available. It has to be made sure that the people in need of them have access to them. With time, this could be made possible. Combining efforts to cure physical diseases and mental diseases have to be made in order to tackle both problems efficiently. Financial input to fund researchers in this domain would boost the efforts. Sensitising people about the diseases would also hopefully bring its fruits, as highlighted by Fazel.