A new report finds that health-related quality of life appears to deteriorate as the number of cigarettes smoked per day increases, even in individuals who subsequently quit smoking.
Smoking has been shown to shorten men’s lives between seven and 10 years, according to background information in the article. It also has been linked to factors that may reduce quality of life, including poor nutrition and lower socioeconomic status.
Arto Y. Strandberg, M.D., of the University of Helsinki, and colleagues followed 1,658 white men born between 1919 and 1934 who were healthy at their first assessment, conducted in 1974. Participants were mailed follow-up questionnaires in 2000 that assessed their current smoking status, health and quality of life. Deaths were tracked through Finnish national registers.
During the 26-year follow-up period, 372 (22.4 percent) of the men died. Those who had never smoked lived an average of 10 years longer than heavy smokers (more than 20 cigarettes per day). Non-smokers also had the best scores on all health-related quality of life measures, especially those associated with physical functioning.
Physical health deteriorated at an increasing rate as the number of cigarettes smoked per day increased, with heavy smokers experiencing a decline equivalent to 10 years of aging.
“Although many smokers had quit smoking between the baseline investigation in 1974 and the follow-up examination in 2000, the effect of baseline smoking status on mortality and the quality of life in old age remained strong,” the authors write.
“In all, the results presented here are troubling for those who were smoking more than 20 cigarettes daily 26 years earlier; in spite of the 68.9 percent cessation rate during follow-up, 44.1 percent of the originally heavy smokers had died, and those who survived to the mean [average] age of 73 years had a significantly lower physical health-related quality of life than never-smokers.”
The findings may add to the view of smoking as a burden on society and might also encourage individual smokers to quit, the authors note.
“The argument of better quality of life may be especially meaningful for the aging smoker but, as our results show, for the best health-related quality of life, the habit should not be started at all,” they write.
“The highly addictive nature of nicotine is revealed by the persistence of the smoking habit in spite of the declining health-related quality of life among older heavy smokers. For those not able to quit smoking, reduction may also be beneficial because mortality [death] and health-related quality of life showed a dose-dependent trend according to the number of cigarettes smoked daily.”
The report is found in the Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Source: JAMA and Archives Journals