Physical health risks for people with severe mental health problems

This infographic illustrates that people with severe mental health problems face increased risk of physical health problems, including diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

Physical health risks for people with severe mental health problems

Premature mortality: the facts

  • One in three people of the 100,000 with ‘avoidable deaths’ every year have a mental illness. Each Clinical Commissioning Group area loses on average 50 lives a year.[1][2]
  • People with mental ill health 2-4 times as likely to die prematurely.[3][4]
  • People with severe mental health problems die earlier than others: average life expectancy is reduced by 15 years in women and 20 years in men (from Nordic studies), and there is evidence that this is getting worse.[5]
  • People who are homeless, many of whom have become so because of severe mental health and substance abuse problems, die 40 years early.[6]

Compared with the general population, people with severe mental illness have:

  • 4.1 times the overall risk of dying prematurely than the general population aged under 50
  • 2 times the risk of diabetes [7]
  • 2-3 times the risk of hypertension.
  • 3 times the risk of dying from coronary heart disease. [8]
  • Gastrointestinal disease is raised at least four times and most of that are liver issues to do with alcohol or other hepatitis illnesses.
  • Cardiovascular disease is two and half times more.
  • 10-fold increase in deaths from respiratory disease for people with schizophrenia.[9]


[1]    Royal College of Psychiatrists (2010) No health without public mental health: the case for action. London: Royal College of Psychiatrists.
[2]     Department of Health (2013) Living Well for Longer: a call to action to reduce avoidable premature mortality. London: Department of Health.
[3]     Newman SC, Bland RC. (1991) Mortality in a cohort of patients with schizophrenia: a record linkage study. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 1991; 36(4): 239-45.
[4]     Brown S, Kim M, Mitchell C, Inskip H. (2010) Twenty-five year mortality of a community cohort with schizophrenia. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2010; 196: 116-21.
[5]    Lawrence D, Hancock KJ, Kisely S. (2013) The gap in life expectancy from preventable physical illness in psychiatric patients in Western Australia: retrospective analysis of population based registers. British Medical Journal. 2013; 346: f2539.
[6]     Nordentoft M, Wandall-Holm N. (2003) 10 year follow up study of mortality among users of hostels for homeless people in Copenhagen. British Medical Journal 2003; 327(7406): 81.
[7]     Royal College of Psychiatrists (2013) Whole person care: from rhetoric to reality. Achieving parity between mental and physical health. London: Royal College of Psychiatrists.
[8]     Osborn DP, Nazareth I, King MB. (2007) Physical activity, dietary habits and Coronary Heart Disease risk factor knowledge amongst people with severe mental illness: a cross sectional comparative study in primary care. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 2007; 42(10): 787-93.
[9]     Faculty of Public Health (2008) Mental health and smoking: a position statement. London: Faculty of Public Health.