Smoking is a known risk factor for many chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. But most of the data come from middle-aged adults. The new study looks at the impact of smoking on death by any cause in adults over the age of 60.
Researchers uncovered 17 different studies from the U.S., China, Australia, Japan, England, Spain, and France that were published between 1987 and 2011. The number of participants ranged from 863 to 877,000 (just a bit of a difference). The results spoke volumes: an 83% increased rate of mortality for current smokers and a 34% increased rate of mortality for ex-smokers, compared with people who had never smoked.
This shows that current smokers have a two-fold higher risk for death, while former smokers have a 1.3-fold higher risk, compared to non-smokers. This pertains to older adults in particular. The studies demonstrate that the relative risk for death decreases as time goes on after you have successfully kicked the nicotine addiction. This happens even at an older age. In other words, having smoked for 40 years is no longer an excuse why you couldn’t possibly quit now. You’ll end up likely living longer, which is important to most of us, not to mention our family members and spouses.
Most smokers grossly underestimate health risks. Perhaps blissful ignorance protects them from the blackened truth. Many older smokers misbelieve that they are too old to quit or too old to benefit from quitting. Sometimes it’s because a friend had recently quit and died thereafter. But this is not the reality: the evidence proves it is never too late to gain health benefits from quitting smoking.
Lung cancer is the most infamous result of smoking, but is just the tip of an enormous iceberg. Smoking is linked to a staggering litany of diseases, some just frustrating and some absolutely fatal. It is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is now the number one complaint of patients who enter hospitals.
Here is one interesting way of viewing the issue: if you help two smokers quit, you have saved at least one person’s life.