Physical Health Impacts of Mental Illness and its Treatments

30 April 2021

Did you know that people with mental health conditions can have their life expectancy reduced by up to 20 years? Additionally, they are two to three times more likely to die from diseases such as cancer and heart disease than people with the same health issues in the general population.

This is a situation that is finally starting to gain some real attention across the nation.

The National Mental Health Commission has led the development of Equally Well, a program in Australia that secures a commitment from health services to putting the physical health care of people living with mental ill health on an equal level with the rest of the population. This work is embodied in the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

Why is this gap in services and life expectancy happening?

There may be many reasons and amongst them are:

  • Lack of screening, so that quality of life can be significantly impacted by chronic and acute physical health conditions.
  • Physical health of mental health consumers may be impacted as a direct or indirect result of their mental health condition, its treatment or the psychiatric medications they are prescribed.
  • Physical health-related effects of mental health issues can also be impacted by poverty, neglect, discrimination, smoking, substance and alcohol use and dietary habits.

NMHCCF Recommends

The NMHCCF believes that this is, above all, a human issue and refers to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), which enshrines the right of persons with disabilities to have access to health services with the same range, quality and standard as is provided to other persons. People who experience mental ill health have the right to live long and healthy lives just like the wider population.

Download the full advoacy brief

Advocacy Brief - Physical Health Impacts of Mental Illness and its Treatments