Professor: Our lower life expectancy “driven by neglect”

Professor Tim Lambert.jpg

By Warren Heggarty

Heart attack and stroke are the major causes of early death for people with serious mental health issues. The lower life expectancy ‘driven by neglect’ according to Professor Tim Lambert of ccCHIP. 

Professor Lambert was Guest Speaker at Buckingham House on 23 October 2017 and he started off by warning those present that what he had to say may be upsetting.

While the rest of the population has enjoyed a 2.5 year increase in life expectancy in every recent decade, people with serious mental health issues have been going backwards if anything. While there are many factors, the one that stands out for Professor Lambert is early death from heart attack and strokes.

It may be so that 90% of people with serious mental health issues are overweight, but the whole of society is plagued by things like obesity. What is it that makes it different for us?

That People with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia, Bipolar and Major Depressive disorder die younger from heart disease is not so much because we have more cardiovascular illness than anyone else. It is because when it occurs in someone with a serious mental illness, it doesn’t get treated properly.

Our lower life expectancy, says Professor Lambert is ‘driven by neglect.’

Sometimes we neglect our own health. Some GPs don’t have enough time or specialised knowledge (particularly of medicines). Some Psychiatrists seem to avoid dealing with non-psychiatric elements of our health even though they are trained doctors! 

Another problem is the sheer complexity of the health system, where we might find ourselves having to make appointment after appointment with different specialists months apart – and it is so easy to lose track of it all, or even give up.

The side effects of many of the medications we take are notorious for weight gain –and the effect they have on our cardiovascular system. But even without factoring in the side effects of these drugs, Professor Lambert says that there is a lot that we can and should be doing but are not. 

Professor Lambert had a dig at some of the nutritional advice he has heard which is not suitable for people on low incomes. ‘It’s not about eating mung beans or going to the gym.’

ccCHiP (Collaborative Centre for Cardiometabolic Health in Psychosis is one way of addressing all of this and Professor Lambert is surprised it hasn’t taken off more. 

It is a ‘one stop shop’ where we can see all of the different specialists we need to see in one session. So we can see in say two hours all of the specialists we might ordinarily take two years to see. 

The ccCHIP website has some great resources, such as information booklets on Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Nutrition, Physical Activity, Constipation and Cholesterol. Go to 

ccCHIP is located in the Clinical Sciences Building at Concord Hospital, Hospital Road Concord NSW 2039, Telephone (02) 9697 6027

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