Often the medical epidemiologist can gain valuable information, with therapeutic implications, from the study of mortality statistics – and it causes neither pain to the patient, nor the emotional trauma of a post-mortem to the relatives. In psychiatric epidemiology, death is one of the few really hard items of data we have, and mortality statistics have been used both in research and service planning. The earliest study was conducted 160 years ago (Farr, 1841). Early studies of the mortality associated with mental illness were conducted with patients in mental hospitals and showed greatly increased premature mortality, especially from tuberculosis and gastrointestinal infections (Shepherd, 1957). As the quality of care improved in mental hospitals during the 20th century, the excess mortality among psychiatric in-patients began to diminish, with fewer deaths from pneumonia, tuberculosis and malnutrition (Norris, 1959).