People with mental illness are 70 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes than people without mental illness, two federal health agencies reported Tuesday.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that 1 of every 3 adults with mental illness smokes, compared with 1 in 5 adults without mental illness.
Adults with mental illness smoke about a third of the cigarettes in the U.S. They smoke more cigarettes a month and are significantly less likely to quit than people without mental illness, the report said. There are nearly 46 million U.S. adults with mental illness., about a fifth of the population.
“Many people with mental illness are at greater risk of dying early from smoking than of dying from their mental health conditions,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.
The report is based on information from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which interviewed 138,000 adults in their homes from 2009 to 2011. People were asked 14 questions to assess psychological distress and disability, and were deemed to have mental illness if their responses indicated that they had a mental, behavior or emotional disorder in the past 12 months. Those with substance abuse or developmental disorders were not considered people with mental illness. The report did not include patients in psychiatric hospitals or people serving in the military.
The report noted several possible reasons that smoking among the mentally ill has been and remains high, including marketing by the tobacco industry and the historical use of cigarettes as an incentive to improve behavior in psychiatric hospitals. “There are some effects of nicotine which can mask some of the negative effects of mental illness,” Frieden said.
The report said smoking can make some medications less effective, which may lead the mentally ill to smoke more to quell symptoms. And, it said, people with mental illness, many of whom struggle to live a stable life, may be less able to cope with withdrawal symptoms from quitting.