Serious mental illness can reduce the sufferer's life expectancy by 10 to 15 years, a study has indicated.
Researchers used electronic medical records to track the lives of more than 30,000 people with conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Many of the patients were found to be dying early from heart attack, stroke and cancer rather than suicide or violence.
The study was carried out at the Biomedical Research Centre for mental health at London's Maudsley Hospital.
The team examined life expectancy for people suffering from specific mental illnesses including schizophrenia, serious depression and bipolar disorder, or those being treated for substance misuse.
The results show that 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.
The researchers believe that a combination of factors could be to blame - including higher-risk lifestyles, long-term anti-psychotic drug use and social disadvantage.
Mental health groups say better care must be offered to vulnerable people in order to prevent premature deaths.
Those most affected were women with schizo-affective disorder - problems with mood or sometimes abnormal thoughts - whose average life expectancy was reduced by 17.5 years.
Meanwhile, men with schizophrenia had their lives shortened by about 14.6 years, the study showed.
The findings are published online in the journal PLoS ONE.
Copyright © Press Association 2011
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