Smoking rates twice as high in patients with mental illness

  • Public Health England
  • 26 Feb 2020

  • curated by Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Medical News
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Smoking rates in people with a long-term mental illness are almost double the rate seen in the general population, according to a new report from Public Health England (PHE).

PHE reports that smoking rates are declining in England, with prevalence in adults having decreased from 17.1 per cent in 2013-2014 to 14.5 per cent in 2018-2019.

Although a decrease in smoking rates has also been seen among adults with a long-term mental health condition - falling from 35.3 per cent in 2013-2014 to 26.8 per cent in 2018-2019 - prevalence remains substantially higher, despite the same levels of motivation to quit.

Research has found that having a mental illness is associated with current smoking, heavy smoking and high levels of tobacco dependence, desire to quit, difficulty remaining abstinent and perceived difficulty remaining abstinent. This is the same for all mental health conditions individually, but the strength and significance of the associations vary depending on the condition.

In 2014-2015, the prevalence in the general population was 16.4 per cent. This increased to 28 per cent in those with anxiety or depression, 34 per cent in those with a long-term mental illness and 40 per cent in adults living with a serious mental illness.

PHE has issued a call to action for all mental health practitioners to support quitting smoking routinely as part of mental health care, including asking all patients about smoking, using tobacco dependence treatment pathways and making better use of stop smoking medicines and e-cigarettes, particularly in community mental health services.

The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership has developed a suite of resources to support health professionals in their role to reduce smoking among people with mental health conditions. Free online training materials are available, including a mental health speciality module and briefings.