Smoking is an effective way to both shorten your life span and suffer ugly medical complications in later life, as this epidemiological study illustrates. Along with being overweight and sedentary it produces one of the larger negative effects on life span that you can achieve through common lifestyle choices. Interestingly, the effects on life expectancy and mortality are about the same size as those resulting from being obese.
Smoking is known to be a major cause of death among middle-aged adults, but evidence on its impact and the benefits of smoking cessation among older adults has remained limited. Therefore, we aimed to estimate the influence of smoking and smoking cessation on all-cause mortality in people aged ≥60 years. Relative mortality and mortality rate advancement periods (RAPs) were estimated by Cox proportional hazards models for the population-based prospective cohort studies from Europe and the U.S. (CHANCES [Consortium on Health and Ageing: Network of Cohorts in Europe and the U.S.]), and subsequently pooled by individual participant meta-analysis. Statistical analyses were performed from June 2013 to March 2014.
A total of 489,056 participants aged ≥60 years at baseline from 22 population-based cohort studies were included. Overall, 99,298 deaths were recorded. Current smokers had 2-fold and former smokers had 1.3-fold increased mortality compared with never smokers. These increases in mortality translated to RAPs of 6.4 and 2.4 years, respectively. A clear positive dose-response relationship was observed between number of currently smoked cigarettes and mortality. For former smokers, excess mortality and RAPs decreased with time since cessation, with RAPs of 3.9, 2.7, and 0.7 for those who had quit less than 10, 10 to 19, and more than 20 years ago, respectively.
Smoking remains as a strong risk factor for premature mortality in older individuals and cessation remains beneficial even at advanced ages. Efforts to support smoking abstinence at all ages should be a public health priority.