Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Ms Qi Wu: At any time in the UK about one in six adults has a mental health problem, the prevalence of smoking in this group is over 33%, which is around 50% higher than in the general population. It is estimated that 3 million adults with mental disorders were smokers in 2009-10. Meanwhile, people with mental health disorders are also more likely to smoke heavily, this group accounts for as much as 42% of the total national tobacco consumption. In this study, we calculated the avoidable economic burden of smoking in people with mental disorders.
The main finding was that people with mental disorders who smoke cost the UK economy £2.34 billion a year. The total costs are more or less equally divided among losses sustained from premature death, lost productivity, and healthcare costs to treat smoking related diseases such as lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in this group. An estimated £719 million (31% of the total cost) was spent on treating diseases caused by smoking. Productivity losses due to smoking-related diseases were about £823 million (35%) for work- related absenteeism and £797 million (34%) was associated with premature mortality.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Ms Qi Wu: Smokers with mental disorders using primary and secondary care services should be identified and provided with specialist smoking cessation support. Professionals working with or caring for people with mental disorders should be trained in awareness of smoking as a major health issue, to deliver brief cessation advice, to provide or arrange further support to those who want to quit. Smoke-free policy is crucial to promoting smoking cessation in mental health settings.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Ms Qi Wu: The result of this study showed that smoking in people with mental disorders imposes a significant economic burden and therefore that development and implementation of smoking cessation interventions in this group is a particularly high priority. Research funding agencies should consider encouraging and investing in research to address this major cause of ill-health. Further research is needed to develop tailored smoking cessation support to increase cessation in people with mental disorders. For those smokers who can’t quit smoking, it is important to integrate harm reduction and temporary abstinence strategies into mental healthcare delivery to reduce the harm of smoking.