The NHS is 'failing smokers' says UU

January 16, 2004

Health services are failing to acknowledge the greater propensity to smoke among people with mental health problems and offering inadequate support to help them quit, an Ulster University researcher has warned, writes Olga Wojtas.

Karen Jeffers of UU's School of Rehabilitation Studies has found that people with mental health problems are twice as likely to smoke than the population in general, with a third smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day compared with 8 per cent of all smokers.

The research, commissioned by the Western Health and Social Services Board and Action Mental Health, investigated the extent of smoking among people with mental health problems in the western area of Northern Ireland.

"The team found that half of those with mental health problems living in the community are smokers and that this rate rises to 73 per cent for those admitted to hospital," Ms Jeffers said.

"Considering the high rates of smoking among people with mental health problems, many more people in this group die from smoking-related diseases.

People with severe depression and schizophrenia have high premature death rates from vascular disease and cancer."

Ms Jeffers said a culture change was necessary to "energetically confront" the issue.

Two-thirds of people with mental health problems living in the community, and more than half of those in hospitals, said they wanted to quit, but Ms Jeffers found they got little advice, even though specialist support groups and nicotine replacement therapy had been shown to work well.

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