"Smoking cessation was also observed more frequently among elders who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. In addition, the rate of recidivism (resuming smoking) was only 16 percent among the elderly smokers who quit, whereas previous studies report relapse rates of 35-45 percent, says head researcher Dr. Heather E. Whitson of Duke University Center for Aging." These findings indicate that older smokers may quit smoking for different reasons than younger smokers.
The study did not directly assess the smokers' reasons for quitting, but the authors postulate that factors such as lack of transportation, poor financial situation and dementia might contribute to smoking cessation in older smokers. Regardless of reason, the cessation of smoking may lower the risk of death, even when it occurs at an advanced age. The seven-year death rate among non-quitters in the study was 51.6% compared to only 44% among the quitters (although the difference was not statistically significant).
The Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP) conducted a survey of its members to find that only 39 percent of smokers had been advised by their physicians in the past year to stop smoking. Physicians may assume that older smokers are unlikely to give up one their few remaining pleasures. However, the Duke data suggests that further research is needed to understand the unique motivations and potential benefits of smoking cessation in the elderly.
This study is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. For more information on this topic and to read additional patient-friendly summaries of articles in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, please visit http://www.healthinaging.org/agingintheknow/research.asp.
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Heather E. Whitson, MD is currently a fellow in the Division of Geriatrics at Duke. She is also on the Program for Women in Medicine Committee, the Internal Medicine Resident Recruitment/Selection Committee, and is a Tutor at Duke for the Evidence-Based Medicine Conference. Media wishing to contact Dr. Whitson for more information or for interview can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
Published on behalf of the American Geriatrics Society, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society's main goal is to publish articles that are relevant in the broadest terms to the clinical care of older persons. Such articles may span a variety of disciplines and fields and may be of immediate, intermediate, or long-term potential benefit to clinical practice.
About the American Geriatrics Society
The American Geriatrics Society is a nationwide, not-for-profit association of geriatrics health care professionals, research scientists, and other concerned individuals dedicated to improving the health, independence and quality of life of all older people. For more information, visit http://www.americangeriatrics.org/.
About Blackwell Publishing
Blackwell Publishing is the world's leading society publisher, partnering with more than 665 academic, medical, and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 800 journals and, to date, has published close to 6,000 text and reference books, across a wide range of academic, medical, and professional subjects.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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