No one wants to live with mental illness. Mental illnesses can make your life harder in many ways. Depending on what you have, you may be depressed, anxious, impulsive, angry, combative, confused, or paranoid. Now it appears mental illness has another big drawback: it can shorten your life. Depending on what mental health issue you have, it might shorten your life by ten years or more. Researches say the effect of living with mental illness is comparable to smoking.

One reason for this is obvious. People with depression, severe anxiety, or schizophrenia are at a much higher risk of suicide than the general population. One study found that people with mental health conditions were about seven times more likely to die from “unnatural causes,” including accidents and suicide. When they removed unnatural causes of death, they found that people with mental health issues were still about 80 percent more likely to die during the 10-year study.

The main reason for this elevated risk appears to be that mental health issues tend to exacerbate other health problems. Issues such as obesity and type 2 diabetes are more common among people with mental illnesses. These conditions are major risk factors for heart disease. What’s more, people with mental illnesses who have developed these conditions have a much harder time adhering to treatment. Depression, in particular, makes people less likely to adhere to treatment for chronic conditions. It may be partly indifference, partly pessimism, and partly the “impossible task”--the feeling that any task, no matter how small, can’t be done. A serious mental illness may make some people unable to get healthcare at all.

Other studies have found that anxiety can shorten your life expectancy. Even when researchers controlled for smoking, drinking, lack of exercise, obesity, and diabetes--all of which are more common among people with anxiety and depression--they found that people who suffered from even mild anxiety were 29 percent more likely than people with no anxiety to die of a heart attack or stroke over a 10-year period. People with high anxiety were 94 percent more likely to die over the same period.

It’s not yet clear whether the increased risk caused by mental illness is reversible, but some studies have shown that proper treatment and positive lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of health problems, including cardiovascular disease. Even if you do have a history of mental illness, seeking medical care and following through with treatment will improve your chances of living longer.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.