Physical health of people with mental illness

Russell Roberts, Jenny Bowman

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


People living with mental illness die on average 20 years earlier than the general population (Roberts, 2019). For every person living with mental illness who dies early of suicide, nine die early due to heart disease, respiratory disease or cancer. Every day, 20 Australians with mental illness die prematurely due to physical illnesses (Roberts, 2019). Suicide is shocking and tragic, and it is right to address suicide as a priority. However, every premature death is tragic and has a devastating impact on family and social networks. Early deaths due to a physical health condition are usually preceded by years or decades of poor health, disability and functional impairment. A large proportion of the premature deaths of people living with mental illness are due to physical illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory disease and diabetes (ABS, 2017). At least 40 per cent of the early deaths are preventable (AIHW, 2019). However, due to a variety of reasons such as stigma, discrimination, and limited access to quality health care, the gap in life expectancy persists and, in fact, appears to be growing (Walker, McGee, & Druss, 2015).
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationInPsych
PublisherAustralian Psychological Society
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


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