Researchers in the Netherlands report that people who do not smoke, and smokers who quit, have longer life expectancy and less time lost to disability than smokers.
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Another lesson in the importance of quitting smoking: not smoking prolongs life and reduces downtime due to disability, according to results of a study.
According to Dr. Wilma J. Nusselder of Erasmus University Rotterdam and colleagues, the study results show that, on balance, nonsmokers spend fewer years being sick than smokers. And when they do get sick, nonsmokers recover faster, according to the report published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The study included over 5,500 adults aged 15 to 74 living in Eindhoven and surrounding districts in the Netherlands, and combined them with 7,500 elderly people living in the United States. Overall life expectancies for the study population were analyzed at age 30 and 70, as well as life expectancies with and without disability.
The researchers estimate that men who quit smoking at age 30 will gain 2.5 years of illness-free living and women will gain 1.9 years compared to an overall life expectancy gain of 1.6 years for men and 0.8 years for women. The authors note that the effects of quitting smoking at age 70 were also positive but smaller.
Some experts have argued that there is a trade off, that living longer means living more years with disability. Nusselder and colleagues say their findings contradict this argument. ''Eliminating smoking will not only extend life and result in an increase in the number of years lived without disability, but will also compress disability into a shorter period,'' they write. ``This implies that the commonly found trade off between longer life and a longer period with disability does not apply.''
The effects of smoking have widely been associated with an increased risk of developing lung diseases including cancer, heart disease and stroke. ``Interventions to discourage smoking should receive high priority,'' the researchers conclude.