Sufferers of mild mental illnesses have an increased risk of dying earlier, according to research published in the British Medical Journal.
People who have anxiety or depression were more likely to die from premature death conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
The Wellcome Trust-funded study, looked at the records of 68,000 people in England and found that low level distress increased the risk of premature death by 16%, even when lifestyle factors were taken into consideration.
The effect of more severe mental health problems on life expectancy has previously been well-researched and the University College London and Edinburgh University team’s findings matched previous findings.
They found that severe mental illness increased the risk of early death by 67%. The research is believed to be the largest study to find a link between psychological distress and premature death.
But scientists said that the increased risk found in those with milder cases, which is thought to be one out of every four people, was concerning, as these illnesses were more likely to go undiagnosed.
The researchers studied 10 years worth of data and matched it to the cause of death given on death certificates.
Lead author Dr Tom Russ said: “The fact that an increased risk of mortality was evident, even at low levels of psychological distress, should prompt research into whether treatment of these very common, minor symptoms can modify this increased risk of death.”