People who smoke are at increased risk of lung and other cancers, heart attack, stroke, chronic lung disease and premature death. After smoking cessation, these risks diminish, but little is known about the time required to regain the level of health of people who have never smoked. This analysis describes trajectories of health-related quality of life (HRQL) in relation to smoking status, focusing on the time required for former smokers to achieve an HRQL level similar to that of never-smokers.
Data were from nine cycles (1994/1995 through 2010/2011) of the National Population Health Survey. Analyses were based on longitudinal data for 3,341 men and 4,143 women aged 40 or older in 1994/1995. Multi-level growth modelling was used to describe HRQL trajectories over the 16-year follow-up period in relation to smoking status, which was updated every two years.
Across all ages and for both sexes, persistent smokers had lower HRQL than did never-smokers. Among men, HRQL improved after 5 years of quitting; after 20 years, HRQL was similar to that of never-smokers. Among women, after 10 years of cessation, the HRQL of former smokers was clinically similar to that of those who had never smoked.
At any age, and for both men and women, long-term smoking cessation results in improvements in HRQL.
Health status, longitudinal studies, smoking, statistical models, tobacco
Several decades of research have established the causal relationship between tobacco smoking and a variety of adverse health effects. In response, anti-smoking legislation has been enacted (including smoking bans and requirements for health-related warnings on cigarette packages), social norms have shifted, and the percentage of smokers among Canadians aged 15 or older has fallen from 35% in 1985 to 17% in 2010. [Full Text]
Margot Shields and Kathryn Wilkins were formerly with the Health Analysis Division at Statistics Canada. Rochelle E. Garner is with the Health Analysis Division at Statistics Canada.
What is already known on this subject?
- Cigarette smoking causes numerous chronic conditions and premature death.
- Although many studies have examined smoking cessation in relation to reductions in the risk of incident disease and premature death, few have examined changes over time in health-related quality of life (HRQL) by smoking status.
What does this study add?
- At all ages, and for both men and women, HRQL improves substantially following long-term smoking cessation.
- In men, improvements to HRQL are evident after 5 years of smoking cessation; after 20 years, HRQL is similar to that of never-smokers.
- In women, HRQL is clinically similar to that of never-smokers after 10 years of cessation.
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