Why Depression May Be Deadlier Than Chain Smoking

By , Category : General Health

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DepressionWhen it comes to tobacco smoke, the facts are the facts. Smoking can—and probably will—kill you. Let me be clear: I have no problem with people who smoke. Some of my best friends smoke. But at the end of the day, the numbers aren’t in their favor.

You see anti-smoking campaigns, information, and cessation assistance programs everywhere you look; they’re on television, at the corner store, and in magazines. You also hear doctors and politicians talking about the dangers of smoking. There’s no question; it’s a major health problem. But would it surprise you that mental health disorders can pose more of a risk to your health than chain smoking?

I’ve always known that mental health disorders play a major role in an individual’s physical health. But because of the stigma attached to mental health, it has never really gotten the exposure it deserves. Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other mental health problems can wear away at a person’s body and health, leading to early death.

A study from the University of Oxford has recently confirmed the physical tolls mental illness takes on an individual and it makes an eye-opening comparison. When compared to chain smoking, mental illness is more detrimental to a person’s lifespan.

The study is attempting to call attention to the vast role mental health plays in life expectancy, and when compared to big, scary killers like cigarettes, the mortality records are shocking. The team concluded that mental illness cuts life short by 10–20 years, while chain smokers tend to die eight to 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. Chain smokers were defined as people who smoke 20 cigarettes per day.

The issue at hand is that you can’t just quit a mental health issue. Oftentimes, you need professional assistance, possibly some time off from work, medication, and most importantly, help from others without judgment. Societal stigmas make this very difficult. Not only are the resources insufficient (compared to anti-smoking efforts), but people often look at those suffering from mental health issues as strange or having something they “just need to get over.”

Slightly more than a quarter of American adults suffer from some sort of metal illness in any given year. They can be related to bouts with extreme stress or depression, a traumatic event, or a more chronic condition, like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Postpartum depression is another example. Regardless of what the condition is or how long it lasts, it can manifest itself physically. People can lose sleep, experience exacerbated symptoms of existing physical conditions, and their bodies and minds can wear away as their mental illness takes over. It can manifest itself in all kinds of ways. Typically, we associate people with mental health disease to an increased risk of suicide, but there are so many more health threats that can cut a life short.

If you’re suffering from chronic stress or depression, or find yourself having a hard time coping in your daily life, you might need help. Don’t be embarrassed about it. Talk to your friends, family, or doctor to come up with constructive ways to get help and lower the risk of early death.

Source for Today’s Article:
“Many mental illnesses reduce life expectance more than smoking,” University of Oxford web site, May 23, 2014; http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2014-05-23-many-mental-illnesses-reduce-life-expectancy-more-heavy-smoking#.




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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »