Living a long life? How mental health impacts life expectancy

People with a mental health condition are more likely to die before the age of 75 from a range of treatable illnesses.

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Find out how people with mental health problems also suffer physical health issues:


Which illnesses?


How does this affect life expectancy?


Which health checks are being missed?


How are local health services doing?

Death rates compared

People living with a serious mental health condition die 12-13 years younger than other people.
Most of this is due to physical illness and unintentional harm.
Cancer respiratory illness such as copd circulatory illness such as heart disease other illness and unintentional harm suicide

Years of life lost before 75



Jayatilleke N, Chang C-K, Hayes RD, Dutta R, Shetty H, Hotopf M, Stewart R. Contributions of specific causes of death to loss of life expectancy in serious mental illness. In submission.

Deaths from treatable illnesses

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People with serious mental health conditions are four times more likely to die as a result of diabetes. Younger people are particularly affected.


Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high.

There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1.

If you’re diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you’ll need insulin injections for the rest of your life. If you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may be able to control your symptoms by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and monitoring your blood glucose levels.

Who is at risk of diabetes?

Four of the main risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes are:

  • age – being over the age of 40 (over 25 for south Asian people)
  • genetics – having a close relative with the condition (parent, brother or sister)
  • weight – being overweight or obese. You can use a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to find out if you’re a healthy weight for your height.
  • ethnicity – being of south Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or black African origin (even if you were born in the UK)

How is diabetes tested?

If you think you may have diabetes, your urine will be tested for glucose. If it does contain glucose, a specialised blood test, known as glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) can be used to determine whether you have diabetes.

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Coronary heart disease

People with serious mental health conditions are two to three times more likely to die of heart disease.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death both in the UK and worldwide.

As well as angina (chest pain), the main symptoms of CHD are heart attacks and heart failure. However, not everyone has the same symptoms and some people may not have any before CHD is diagnosed.

Causes of CHD

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is usually caused by a build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries around the heart (coronary arteries).

Smoking is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Both nicotine and carbon monoxide (from the smoke) put a strain on the heart by making it work faster. They also increase your risk of blood clots.

Tests for heart disease

If your doctor thinks you may be at risk of developing CHD, they may carry out a risk assessment for cardiovascular disease, heart attack or stroke.

Your doctor will ask about your medical and family history, check your blood pressure, and do a blood test to assess your cholesterol level. A sample will be taken either using a needle and a syringe or by pricking your finger. Your GP will also ask about your lifestyle, how much exercise you do and whether you smoke.

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Diseases of the respiratory system

People with serious mental health conditions are nearly four times as likely to die of respiratory illnesses. They have very high rates of pneumonia and COPD.

Diseases of the respiratory system

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease.

People with COPD have difficulties breathing, primarily due to the narrowing of their airways, this is called airflow obstruction. Typical symptoms of COPD include:

  • increasing breathlessness when active
  • a persistent cough with phlegm
  • frequent chest infections

COPD is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the UK. It usually only starts to affect people over the age of 35, although most people are not diagnosed until they are in their 50s.

You can reduce your risk of developing COPD by not smoking and avoiding exposure to certain substances, such as dust and chemicals at work.

Smoking is the main cause of COPD and is thought to be responsible for around 90% of cases.

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Ischaemic/haemorrhagic stroke

People with serious mental conditions are twice as likely to die of stroke.

Ischaemic/haemorrhagic stroke

A stroke is a serious, life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.

The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
  • Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.
  • Time – it is time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

Older people are most at risk of having strokes, although they can happen at any age. If you are south Asian, African or Caribbean, you may also have a higher risk of stroke.

Smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise and a poor diet are risk factors for stroke, as are high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation and diabetes.

To compare mortality (death) rates in your area, enter your postcode: