Study Warns Mental Disorders Could Shorten Your Lifespan

Chronic mental disorders like anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia can cut as much as a decade off your lifespan, according to a study by researchers at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

Significantly Shorter Lifespans

"People with mental health disorders have a high prevalence of chronic medical conditions," said study leader Elizabeth Walker. She pointed out that the mentally ill often have problems managing those conditions. They may eat poorly, avoid exercise, and skip their medications, meaning they suffer more negative effects than those with the same physical ailments who take better care of themselves.

Overall, the odds of dying from physical conditions is elevated by an average of 80 percent for those with mental disorders. They're also at a higher risk of dying from unnatural causes, with a seven times greater likelihood of being killed in an accident or committing suicide.

A Problem for Millions of People

The risks are especially frightening when looked at in terms of the number of people who suffer from mental illness in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, just over four percent of adults have a serious mental illness. That's 9.6 million people facing abbreviated lifespans. When you expand the numbers to include adults with any form of mental illness, you come up with 43.7 million people potentially at risk. Only a little over half of the people with serious mental disorders get treatment.

While many mental disorders are not completely curable, they're often manageable with the right treatment approach. That could involve medication, counseling, or a combination of both. If you manage your mental illness, you're in a better position to take care of your physical health, too. That may help you overcome the odds and live out your natural lifespan with the highest possible quality of life. If you need a counselor, start with the Therapist Finder search.