1 December 2020

People living with severe mental illness are 4.5 times more likely than average to die before they reach the age of 75 in England, according to official figures published today.

The new figures, published by Public Health England, confirm that there is a dramatic gap in life expectancy for people with a severe mental illness. A gap most often caused by the prevalence of common physical health conditions.

Equally Well UK is a national collaborative that aims to close the gap by helping organisations to improve physical health support to people with mental health difficulties.

Equally Well’s clinical chair Professor Wendy Burn said: “Today’s data underlines why concerted and sustained action to support better physical health for people with severe mental illness is essential. With emerging data showing that people with a severe mental illness are also more likely to die from COVID-19, this cannot wait. We must ensure that people with severe mental illness get prioritised access to vaccines and other protections. We need to see more people with mental illness getting annual health checks, help to stop smoking when they want it, and opportunities to eat well and be physically active. And we need to ensure people have enough money to live on and safe and secure housing.”

Equally Well’s Expert by Experience Group chair Kevin James said: “Today’s data highlights the need to empower, enable and support people with severe mental illness at every possible step to improve their physical health alongside the care given for their mental health. Severe mental illness and physical health is everyone’s business and what is crucial for this is making every contact count. This includes making sure that everyone receives their physical health check and that it’s not just a tick boxing exercise but a way of improving people’s lives.”