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Smoking 'major factor' in shortened lifespan for poor mental health

Smoking 'major factor' in shortened lifespan for poor mental health
15th April 2016

Smoking has been identified as the key reason why people with mental health problems have a lower average lifespan than the rest of the population.

On average, people with mental health problems live between ten and 20 years less than those with good mental health. Now, research from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has revealed that a third of smokers are people with a current mental health condition. Furthermore, such individuals have twice the smoking levels of the general population.

Figures from Cancer Research UK show that close to 20 per cent of cancer cases in the UK are smoking-related. 

The impact of smoking on the health of people with mental health illnesses is unacceptable, according to cancer prevention champion at Cancer Research UK Linda Bauld:

"Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of inequalities in who develops cancer.

"Any person with an illness should be given the best possible care, and be treated as an individual. People with mental health conditions who smoke, and are dependent on nicotine, are no different."

Smoking not only raises the risk of cancer, but also a host of other conditions, such as stroke and heart disease, meaning people with mental health problems may also be more likely to battle with poor physical health - and to have their lives cut short by it.

'The Stolen Years: The Mental Health and Smoking Action Report' by ASH highlighted ways that this issue can be tackled. This includes providing better access to medication that helps people quit smoking, as well as improved training for healthcare staff. Also suggested was a move towards smoke-free mental health settings.

Of course, smoking is not the only risk factor in cancer - and it seems the general population is not always aware of what common risk factors are. Earlier this month, Cancer Research UK revealed that 90 per cent of people in the UK did not associate consuming alcohol with an increased risk of developing the illness.