Blue collar workers more apt to smoke, less able to quit

02/20/04

Americans working in blue collar and some service jobs are more apt to smoke and less likely to quit, a new study suggests.

In white and black populations, rates of smoking are highest among people with low incomes, little education and blue collar jobs. Smoking rates follow a similar trend in Hispanic, Asian and American Indian populations, although the effects of income and occupation are less clear-cut in these groups, say Elizabeth Barbeau, Sc.D., M.P.H., and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health. Their findings are published in the American Journal of Public Health.

"Taken together, these groups at high risk for smoking made up approximately 60 million adults, or nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population," Barbeau says.

After analyzing health data gathered on 24,276 Americans in 2000, the researchers found that smokers from all socioeconomic backgrounds were likely to try quitting. Successful quitters, however, tended to come from wealthier, white collar backgrounds.

In a second study published in the same issue, Barbara Jefferis, M.Sc., of the Institute of Child Health in London and colleagues conclude that socioeconomic status affects British smokers in a similar way. Their research followed 6,541 people for 41 years to find out whether smoking habits were related to childhood or adult socioeconomic influences.

Men in blue collar jobs were more likely to be smokers regardless of their childhood background, but women from blue collar families were more than twice as likely as women from white collar backgrounds to be smokers, Jefferis and colleagues found.

The researchers suggest that women's childhood socioeconomic status may affect other factors, such as education and age at first childbirth, that also increase the odds of becoming a persistent smoker.

The studies propose that health care professionals step up efforts to prevent smoking and encourage quitting in workers at the lower end of the pay scale, say Glorian Sorensen, Ph.D., M.P.H., and colleagues at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. On-the-job programs that combine occupational safety and health promotion may be among the best ways to deliver help to these workers, according to Sorensen.

The studies were supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, the National Cancer Institute, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group and the Larry and Susan Marx Foundation.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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