The research, carried out at the Biomedical Research Centre for mental health at the Maudsley Hospital in London and published in the online journal PLoS ONE, found that people suffering from serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can have a life expectancy 10 to 15 years lower than the UK average.
Researchers examined the electronic medical records of 30,000 people suffering from specific mental illnesses like schizophrenia, serious depression and bipolar disorder, or those being treated for substance misuse. They found that many were dying early from heart attack, stroke and cancer rather than suicide or violence.
Life expectancy across all the illnesses studied was well below the UK average of 77.4 years for men and 81.6 years for women.
Those most affected were women with schizoaffective disorder whose average life expectancy was reduced by 17.5 years, and men with schizophrenia whose lives were shortened by about 14.6 years.
The study concluded that a combination of factors - higher-risk lifestyles, long-term anti-psychotic drug use and social disadvantage - could be to blame.
Centre for Mental Health joint chief executive Professor Bob Grove said: “It is shocking that people with mental health problems can expect to live for 15 years fewer than average in the UK. While life expectancy in Britain has improved for most, people with severe mental health problems have been left behind. Too many get inadequate physical health care because it is overshadowed by their mental health condition. We need urgent action to implement the Government’s mental health strategy objective of improving the physical health of all people with mental health problems and address this stark inequality in health as part of the NHS reform process.”