Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that mental health problems like anorexia and depression can be as detrimental to a person's life expectancy as chain-smoking 20 cigarettes a day.
The study found that people suffering from such disorders can expect to live far shorter lives than the average healthy person. Here are the decreases in life expectancy associated with several key diagnoses, according to the research:
- Bipolar disorder: Decrease in life expectancy of between nine and 20 years
- Schizoprenia: Decrease in life expectancy of between 10 and 20 years
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse: Decrease in life expectancy of between nine and 24 years
- Recurrent depression: Decrease in life expectancy of between seven and 11 years
In contrast, smoking 20 cigarettes per day is estimated to cut one's life expectancy by eight to 10 years.
Dr. Seena Fazel is the author of the study and a senior fellow at the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University. He says the study proves that substance abuse, mental health issues and life expectancy are all inextricably linked.
"High-risk behaviors are common in psychiatric patients, especially drug and alcohol abuse, and they are more likely to die by suicide," Fazel said in a statement. "The stigma surrounding mental health may mean people aren't treated as well for physical health problems when they do see a doctor."
Fazel says the study is a call-to-action, demanding that we make changes in the way we view mental illness, addictions and eating disorders. He argues that we should bring the same sense of urgency to fighting these mortality risks as we do to smoking prevention campaigns.
Fairwinds Treatment Center was founded on the conviction that underlying, often undiagnosed mental health problems almost always accompany substance abuse issues and eating disorders. Since 1989, Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef has been providing patients with a network of support to confront and overcome their mental health challenges. The dual diagnosis programs at Fairwinds Treatment Center address bipolar disorder, depression and other mental illnesses in connection with drug addictions, alcoholism, anorexia, bulimia, compulsive eating and other issues.
Because the dual diagnosis plan treats patients in their entirety, rather than just one isolated aspects of them, it allows patients to find deep, lasting wellness regardless of the challenges they face. On the other hand, too many addiction and eating disorder centers address just one part of a person's mental health struggle, often resulting in failed recovery and even death. Disturbingly, the Oxford researchers found that British citizens with mental health disorders have the same life expectancy as the average citizen of North Korea or Bangladesh. Substance abusers and anorexia sufferers had a particularly high risk of premature death. The risk of suicide was extremely elevated among men and women suffering from bipolar disorder, depression or schizophrenia, and for female alcoholics and anorexia patients.
The study considered extensive data from 20 previous reports, examining 1.7 million subjects overall and 250,000 total deaths. It was funded by the Wellcome Trust and published in the June 2014 issue of World Psychiatry.
If you believe that your loved one requires treatment for anorexia, bulimia, compulsive eating, alcoholism, drug dependency or another eating disorder or addiction, it's time to actively explore treatment options. Sending your loved one to a dual diagnosis facility like Fairwinds Treatment Center, which combines both therapeutic counseling and individualized clinical treatment plans, could quite literally save their life. For more information, contact us today at (727) 449-0300.