An estimated 90,200 Australians are living with both a mental illness and cancer.
Daily smokers are almost 3 times as likely to have been diagnosed or treated for a mental illness (29% compared with 12%).
Smoking prevalence tends to increase alongside the severity of the psychiatric disorder. One Australian study showed about 70% of people living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder smoke.
Australian research shows that 59-70% of people, regardless of their circumstances, want to reduce and/or quit smoking. People living with a mental illness are just as likely to quit as the general population, and 47% have made at least one quit attempt in the last month.
Smoking increases a person’s risk of developing up to 16 different types of cancers including lung, mouth (oral cavity), throat (pharynx), oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver, pancreas, nasal cavity and sinuses, voice box (larynx), cervix, ovary, bladder, kidney, ureter and bone marrow (myeloid leukaemia).
More than three-quarters of deaths in people living with a mental illness are caused by physical health conditions including cancer. Cancer contributes to the gap in life expectancy between people living with a mental illness and other Australians. For example, people living with a severe mental illness die 10–15 years earlier.
We know that living a healthy lifestyle can prevent at least a third of all cancers. We also know that tobacco smoking is the most common cause of cancer and is responsible for 1 in every 5 cancer deaths.
The prevalence of smoking is consistently higher among people who use mental health settings.
People with a mental health condition tend to smoke heavily and intensely and their health is disproportionally affected – reduced life expectancy; increased risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary disease (2-3 times the morbidity and mortality).
People with a mental health condition who smoke experience more severe symptoms of psychosis, depression and anxiety, have an increased risk of the onset of panic attacks, dementia, spend longer time in hospital and require higher doses of some medications including psychotropic medications.
Quitting has so many positive outcomes – increased life expectancy and improved physical health, reduced depression, anxiety and stress; improved positive mood and quality of life, more disposable income and even dose reduction of some medications.