Helping People With Depression Quit Smoking can Save Lives

Source: Sabine R on Unsplash
Source: Sabine R on Unsplash

Giving the means to quit smoking to patients with depression could save as many as 125 000 lives over the next 80 years, researchers estimate. This number could be as high as 203 000 if people with depression who are not yet in mental health care settings are included.

The study, led by the Yale School of Public Health, shows the potential benefits that smoking cessation could have in a population suffering disproportionately from tobacco-related disease and death. Smokers with depression already find it harder to quit, and experience more negative withdrawal symptoms if they do, including increased depression. The study is also the first to estimate the population health effects of integrating smoking cessation treatments with standard mental health care.
Using more than a decade of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the researchers made a model to project the effectiveness of smoking-cessation treatments into the future. They assessed how the benefits varied based on different rates of treatment adoption over the next 80 years.

Simulating the health benefits reveals that, at least 32 000 deaths could be prevented by 2100 if a significant number of patients with depression adopted any kind of cessation treatment. Assuming 100% mental health service utilisation and pharmacological cessation treatment, the number of potential lives saved could rise to 203 000.

“We’ve known for a long time that people with depression smoke more than the general population, and that mental health care settings often don’t have cessation treatment as part of standard care. Our study asks: what is that missed opportunity? What do we have to gain when mental health care and smoking cessation treatment are fully integrated,” said lead author and assistant professor Jamie Tam, PhD. The findings are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Such high benefits would be a best-case scenario, the researchers cautioned. Even so, the model’s results match public health experts’ long-standing predictions of the results of smoking-cessation treatment becoming a routine part of mental health care. The findings show that even less-optimal cessation treatments would greatly impact both quality and length of life for patients living with depression.

“Beyond reducing the risk of early death, smoking cessation improves quality of life and increases productivity,” Tam added. “Decision makers should remove barriers to mental health care and smoking cessation treatments for people with mental health conditions.”

The researchers concluded that while existing treatments, such as nicotine replacement therapy, varenicline, and bupropion, can raise cessation rates by nearly 60%, in the future there would be even larger health gains if there were better cessation treatments.

Source: Yale University

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