Simon Lawton Smith, Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation
“Yesterday, the Biomedical Research Centre for mental health at the Maudsley Hospital in London published an article about the life expectancy of mentally ill people in the online journal PLoS ONE. The research, which involved 30,000 patients, shows that people suffering from serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder have a life expectancy 10 to 15 years lower than the UK average.
“These are truly shocking research findings and show that there is much to do to help people with severe mental illnesses before their problems become literally life-threatening.
“There is a very strong link between poor mental health and poor physical health. It is essential that the care and support we offer people addresses both. We are pleased that the Government’s new mental health strategy for England sets an objective of better physical health for people with mental health problems. The NHS reforms need to create a primary and secondary care framework where this can happen.
“More focus should also be paid to early-intervention measures, in order to help people live with and manage their illnesses at an early stage, to minimise the chances of their conditions worsening to the point where their lives are threatened. Aside from being ethically right, evidence has shown early-intervention to be amongst the most cost-effective approaches.
“The report shows that poor physical health is a major issue due to a combination of the side effects of anti-psychotic medication, poverty, possible self-neglect and often poor diet. GPs and other healthcare professionals involved must receive adequate training to understand and support these patients more effectively. It is also important that they keep any physical health issues of mental health patients under regular review. “