The Largest Health Disparity We Donʼt Talk About
Americans with serious mental illnesses die 15 to 30 years earlier than
By Dhruv Khullar
For the New York Times
May 30, 2018
My patient had struggled with bipolar disorder his entire life, and his illness
dominated our years together. He had, in a fit of hopelessness, tried to take his
life with a fistful of pills. He had, in an episode of mania, driven his car into a
tree. But the reason I now held his death certificate — his sister and mother in
tears by his bed — was more pedestrian: a ruptured plaque in his coronary
artery. A heart attack.
Americans with depression, bipolar disorder or other serious mental illnesses
die 15 to 30 years younger than those without mental illness — a disparity
larger than for race, ethnicity, geography or socioeconomic status. It’s a gap,
unlike many others, that has been growing, but it receives considerably less
academic study or public attention. The extraordinary life expectancy gains of
the past half-century have left these patients behind, with the result that
Americans with serious mental illness live shorter lives than those in many of
the world’s poorest countries.
National conversations about better mental health care tend to follow a mass
shooting or the suicide of a celebrity. These discussions obscure a more
rampant killer of millions of Americans with mental illness: chronic disease. Read entire article here
Dhruv Khullar, M.D., M.P.P., is a physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, a researcher at
the Weill Cornell Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, and director of policy
dissemination at the Physicians Foundation Center for Physician Practice and Leadership.
Follow him on Twitter at @DhruvKhullar.