Mentally Ill More Likely to Smoke

Smoking rates in people with mental illness much higher than general population

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Too many people in America still smoke. People with mental illness may be more likely to smoke and to smoke more cigarettes per month than people without mental illness.

A recent national survey reported smoking rates among people seeking help for mental illness in the United States. Researchers found a serious need for greater smoking cessation efforts focused towards these people with mental illness, as the mentally ill were 70 percent more likely to smoke than those without mental illness.

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A recent vital signs report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took a look at the prevalence of smoking in people with mental illness in the US. For this study, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) collected data from 2009 to 2011 through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

The CDC estimates 443,000 Americans die every year from smoking-related illness.

In the US, 36 percent of adults aged 18 and older with mental illness reported smoking, while only 21 percent of adults aged 18 and older without mental illness said they smoked. Considering 46 million Americans have some type of mental illness, or roughly one in five Americans, it was significant to find that smoking rates were 70 percent higher among the mentally ill.

Rates of smoking among the mentally ill were higher in certain groups, which included: males under the age of 45, adults living below the poverty line and those with less than a college education. American Indians and Alaska Natives with mental illness were also considered at high risk for smoking.

Rates of smoking among the mentally ill varied between states. Utah reported having only an 18 percent smoking rate, while West Virginia had a rate of 49 percent.

Adults with mental illness also reported heavier smoking habits by smoking an average of 331 cigarettes per month, compared to those without mental illness who reported smoking an average of 310 cigarettes per month. Overall, three out of every 10 cigarettes smoked in the US was consumed by persons with mental illness.

“Smokers with mental illness, like other smokers, want to quit and can quit. Stop-smoking treatments work—and it’s important to make them more available to all people who want to quit,” said Director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, MD, MPH.

SAMHSA has partnered with the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center (SCLC) to develop a plan to promote smoking cessation efforts in mental health care.

The CDC has recommended smoke-free policies for mental health facility campuses, and that mental healthcare providers routinely screen patients for smoking and offer smoking cessation help to smokers.

This report was published in February on the CDC website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 12, 2013
Last Updated:
February 14, 2013