Failing to close this gap will cost thousands of lives 1

This blog has recently featured several stories on the strong links between smoking and mental health.

Today being election day today I’m moved to write one last short piece on the subject, feeling that there is one last itch that needs to be scratched.

We highlight elsewhere that people with mental health issues are dying early. The average reduction in life expectancy in people with bipolar disorder is between nine and 20 years, while it is 10 to 20 years for schizophrenia, between nine and 24 years for drug and alcohol abuse, and around seven to 11 years for recurrent depression.

It is not the mental health problems directly which are killing people, but largely a range of associated physical behaviours. High smoking rates in this group are at the heart of the problem.

Physical health, and in particular the likelihood of smoking, is closely interlinked with mental health. But this was not mentioned in the last national mental health strategy. The Scottish Government will shortly announce a new strategy, and we learn from the SNP manifesto that (should they win) this is intended to be a ten-year plan.

The reasons why more people with mental health issues smoke, are more addicted to nicotine and find it harder to quit are complex. But it is not difficult to see that this is a major inequality in our society – and the new strategy must include a firm commitment to address it.

It will be at least ten years before the opportunity arises again, during which period thousands of vulnerable people in Scotland would die before their time.

Would that be acceptable?



One comment

  1. Another significant issue is that smoking can also interfere with the efficacy of some medications (for example, the antipsychotics Clozapine or Olanzapine), meaning that unnecessarily high doses of such drugs are required to be effective. Stopping smoking – under supervision, if on prescribed meds – can help reduce this additional burden faced by those experiencing ongoing mental ill health, as well as benefiting their physical wellbeing (and wallets!).

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