Seniors Make Tough Patients: 81% with Lung Disease Wont Stop Smoking
Study says senior citizens with serious illness find smoking, drinking tough habits to break
31, 2012 Those who frequent hospitals are often shocked to see a frail senior citizen sitting in a wheelchair smoking a cigarette outside
the hospital. A new study confirms this is not uncommon. It found only 19 percent of those suffering from lung disease quit smoking and
concludes that to change behavior in many of these seniors is a daunting task.
Furthermore, the research showed that the vast majority of older adults who learn they have a chronic condition do not
adopt healthier behaviors, according to data presented in the
Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences
and Social Sciences.
This study included adults age 50 to 85 in the Health and Retirement Study, an
ongoing survey of over 11,000 Americans aged 50 or older that began in 1992.
For the new journal article, a research team led by Jason T. Newsom, PhD, at Portland State University sought to
determine to what degree these adults modified their smoking, drinking, and exercise behaviors after the diagnosis of heart disease, cancer,
stroke, respiratory disease, and diabetes.
Even after an illness has occurred, change in behavior is critical for improving quality of life, reducing risk of
recurrence or complications, and extending life, Newsom said.
Quitting smoking after a heart attack, for example, cuts risk of a second heart attack in half.
The largest observed change in behavior was among those who were diagnosed with heart disease, which led 40 percent of
smokers to quit. For every disease, smokers decreased the number of cigarettes consumed per day, but only 19 percent of those suffering from
lung disease quit within two years.
There were no significant improvements in the percentage reporting regular vigorous exercise (at least three times per
week) following the diagnosis of any chronic condition. In fact, the percentage exercising declined significantly for those with cancer, lung
disease, and stroke - although this may be due to the physical limitations that can be associated with those conditions.
Changes in alcohol consumption were small, although among those who were currently drinking, those with heart disease,
diabetes, cancer, stroke, and lung disease significantly decreased their average number of daily drinks.
Additionally, there were few significant and consistent socio-demographic changes after diagnosis.
> Women and younger participants were somewhat more likely to decrease exercise and alcohol use.
> Higher education was associated with smoking cessation, increased exercise, and decreased alcohol consumption.
The results provide important new information on health behavior changes among those with chronic disease and suggest
that intensive efforts are required to help initiate and maintain lifestyle improvements among this population, the authors state.
The research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.
Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences is a refereed
The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary
organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society - and its 5,400+ members
- is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSAs structure also
includes a policy institute, the
National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the
Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.
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