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Physical health and mental illness

A doctor with a stethoscope around his neck sitting at his deskThe Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) is concerned that the gap between life expectancy in patients with a mental illness and the general population has widened since 1985.

People with serious mental illness typically live between 10 and 32 years less than the general population. Around 80% of this higher mortality rate can be attributed to the much higher rates of physical illnesses, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancer experienced by this population.

The RANZCP has been aware for some time that mental illness in interaction with other chronic diseases is one of the biggest challenges to public health systems in Australia and New Zealand. Excess mortality amongst people with severe and persistent mental illness is a consistent finding amongst a range of international studies, indicating that this is a global phenomenon. We believe that much more needs to be done to address the gap in physical health and life expectancy between those who live with a mental illness and those who don’t. 

Psychiatrists are responsible not just for the clinical care of consumers but also for providing clinical leadership, teaching and training, researching, and advocating for better psychiatric health in the community. As part of this work the RANZCP is producing a number of reports and papers examining the barriers to health care for people with mental illness and other physical illnesses, and what can be done to reduce these barriers.

Reports

Further reading: Australian and New Zealand reports 

Further reading: International reports