Almost half of adult Oklahomans with mental illness smoke cigarettes, which contributes to early death among this population and far exceeds the smoking rate for those without mental illness, according to a study released Tuesday.
“Many people with mental illness are at greater risk of dying earlier from smoking than dying from their mental health condition,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This is a big mental health disparity and a vulnerable population, and we need to do more to help smokers with mental illness quit.”
In the CDC's report released Tuesday, Oklahoma had the third-highest smoking rate in the nation among adults with mental illness, according to the report.
About 46 percent of adult Oklahomans with mental illness smoke. Meanwhile, about 29 percent of adult Oklahomans without a mental illness smoke cigarettes, according to the report.
West Virginia, at 49 percent, and Alabama, at 48 percent, were the only two states with higher rates.
For the report, mental illness was defined as having a diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder, excluding developmental and substance use disorders, in the past 12 months.
In Oklahoma, about 22 percent of adults report suffering from a mental illness, according to the CDC's analysis. Likewise, nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States, or about 45.7 million Americans, have some type of mental illness, according to the report.
Among adults with mental illness, smoking prevalence is especially high among younger adults, American Indians and Alaska Natives, those living below the poverty line, and those with lower levels of education, according to the report.
Frieden said this is a serious health issue that needs more attention.
“People in the U.S. with mental illness are 70 percent more likely to smoke than people who don't have mental illness,” he said. “As a result, they're at much higher risk for early death and significant health problems.”