Overview: New research shows that smoking significantly increases the risk of developing schizophrenia or depression.
Source: University of Bristol
Smoking increases the risk of developing schizophrenia by 53% to 127% and of developing depression by 54% to 132%, according to a report published today by academics from the University of Bristol.
More research is needed to establish why this is the case, and more evidence is needed for other mental health conditions such as anxiety or bipolar disorder.
The evidence presented today at the Royal College of Psychiatrists International Congress has been shared with the government, which is currently developing a new Tobacco Control Plan for publication later this year.
Congress will also receive new data on the number of smokers with mental illness. The number of smokers is much higher in people with mental illness than in those without, and among England’s 6 million smokers it is estimated that there are:
- 230,000 smokers with severe mental illness (e.g. schizophrenia and bipolar disorder)
- 1.6 million with depression and anxiety
These analyzes are timely as the government is currently considering the Khan Review’s recommendations for the upcoming Tobacco Control Plan to achieve its Smokefree 2030 ambition.
The independent review Javed Khan was tasked by the Secretary of State to help the government identify the most impactful interventions to reduce smoking initiation and support people to quit smoking for good. One of Khan’s 15 recommendations was that action should be taken to tackle the problem of smoking and mental health.
One of the authors of the new report, Professor Marcus Munafo, professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol, said: “There is no longer any doubt that smoking is bad for mental health and this should be a priority in the upcoming Tobacco Control Plan.
“Those who work with people with mental illness need to understand and address the vicious cycle of bidirectional effects, where having symptoms of mental illness makes people more likely to smoke and become more likely to become addicted.
“At the same time, smoking also increases the risk of later mental illness and worsens mental health symptoms. A lower smoking rate will improve both overall mental and physical health.”
In addition to the report, a joint publication by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Public Mental Health Implementation Center sets out how to address smoking in public mental health services to tackle smoking and ill mental health. to decrease.
The NHS has pledged to provide support to smokers in mental health wards and those who have access to community support, but this is largely limited to those with severe mental illness.
dr. Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Smoking addiction is not a trivial matter; it causes serious damage to both body and mind. Smokers with mental illness can quit with the right support from healthcare professionals. It is our duty as psychiatrists to provide them with the help they need to succeed.”
Joanne Hart, a former smoker who has recovered from depression, said: “Quitting smoking has changed my life for the better, both physically and mentally. It is shocking to learn that smoking may have been one of the reasons for my depression. As a smoker, I knew I was hurting my health, but in hard times it was easy to think it was helping mentally – everyone should know the opposite is true.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive, ASH, said: “The Khan Review is called ‘Making smoking obsolete’ – this cannot be achieved if we ignore the more than one million smokers with mental illness. While the NHS has started rolling out support to quit for people with severe mental illness, there is little provision for those with common mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety – a plan is needed.
About this research news on mental health and smoking