Seniors With Chronic Illness Cling to Smoking and Drinking

Old habits die hard. Smoking and drinking are difficult habits to break for anyone, but research shows that quitting is especially difficult for older individuals diagnosed with major health issues.

Many seniors suffering from serious health ailments may reason that their time is limited anyway, so why not enjoy what time they have left?

The Health and Retirement Study conducted by researchers from Portland State University examined whether being diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, stroke, cancer, respiratory disease, or heart problems would cause the elderly to cut back on bad habits such as drinking and smoking.

The study has been a work in progress since 1992 and looked at the lives of more than 11,000 Americans between the ages of 50 and 85.

The study revealed that a mere 19 percent of adults in this category who received a diagnosis of lung cancer went on to give up smoking two years later. The results also showed that the detection of a serious, ongoing illness was not enough incentive for most of the elderly community to want to change their ways.

But as lead researcher, Dr. Jason T. Newsom, points out – giving up smoking after experiencing a heart attack might be worth the pain – reducing the risk of having another one by as much as 50 percent.

While many in the study who received a chronic health diagnoses did cut back on smoking, the vast majority did not completely quit.

Similar results were exhibited with alcohol use. There was only a small decline in use following the diagnosis of illness. The onset of certain illnesses, did however, result in people consuming fewer drinks in a given day.

While women seemed to be more responsive to improving their health after receiving a serious, chronic diagnosis, the real correlation between substance abuse and illness seems to exist with education.

Results showed that higher education helped encourage efforts at increasing exercise, quitting smoking, and lower overall alcohol consumption.