Smoking prevalence has not decreased for individuals with poor mental health
by Thom Bush
on 10 August 2015
The Memory Puzzle

This research poses a potential dilemma, do people with mental illness smoke because of their illness or does smoking, with all its known harmful effects, maintain and or promote the illness, if only to some small degree?

Despite a significant decline in tobacco use by adults, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking rates in individuals with poor mental health remained the same for a decade, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. In addition, during the 10-year period examined by researchers at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, smoking prevalence was greater in individuals with behavioural health conditions, compared to persons with better mental health.

"Our research found that while smoking rates have been going down in New Jersey adults without mental health problems, they have remained steady for those with mental health problems," said Marc L. Steinberg, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and lead author of the study. "This suggests that tobacco control strategies are not reaching those with poor mental health, or, if they are, their messages are not translating into successful cessation."

Dr. Steinberg and his colleagues also examined quit attempts by current smokers, finding that there was no significant difference in the attempt to quit in regard to mental health.

"Evidence shows that there has been a significant decrease in smoking in adults, and our data indicates that people with mental illness attempt to quit smoking at the same rate as those without mental illness, yet they are not as successful," said Steinberg. "Tobacco control has been relatively successful in helping some groups quit smoking, but the remaining smokers may be the ones who are the hardest to treat. We need to address the health disparities of the remaining smokers, such as those with lower socioeconomic status and mental health problems. Individuals with mental illness represent approximately one third of the adult smokers in the U.S. and we need to develop alternative tobacco control strategies, including targeted treatments for this vulnerable population."

New Jersey data examined in the study was obtained from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and was provided by the New Jersey Department of Health. The data was collected from telephone surveys independently conducted in all 50 states that compiled chronic health information from adults aged 18 and older and then pooled by the CDC.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.