A recent study led by the University of Northern British Columbia indicates that people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression have a two to four times greater risk of death from smoking-related illness compared to the general population. This is one of the first-ever studies to look at the full range of tobacco-related deaths among psychiatric patients.
Researchers followed more than 570,000 individuals with psychiatric conditions for up to 16 years, and they found that tobacco-related conditions led to approximately 50% of total deaths in the psychiatric groups.
“This study is important because it is one of the first to provide a comprehensive assessment of mortality for all of the tobacco-related cardiovascular, respiratory, and cancer conditions among a very large population group,” says Russell Callaghan, the lead author of the study and an Associate Professor in the Northern Medical Program at UNBC. “Psychiatric patients also tend to smoke more heavily and to have more severe nicotine dependence than other smokers.”
The study used all in-patient hospital admissions in the State of California from January 1, 1990 to December 31, 2005. Study participants were aged 35 years or older and had been diagnosed in a hospital setting with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression. For participants who died during the follow-up period, death records were examined for mortality conditions considered by the international scientific community as causally linked to tobacco use.
“In the United States, for example, individuals with a current psychiatric disorder are estimated to consume approximately 45% of all cigarettes smoked in the country,” says Dr. Callaghan. “However, assessment and treatment for nicotine dependence is rarely included in clinical care for these populations.”
Dr. Callaghan hopes that the results of the study will make treatment providers and patient advocates more aware of the seriousness of tobacco-related health consequences among people with psychiatric conditions. “Addressing tobacco use in these groups is a critical clinical and public-health concern, especially in light of the often limited clinical attention devoted to tobacco use among people with mental illness.”