Tobacco use triggers multimorbidity among the elderly, says a study

Kerala has the highest prevalence of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease

Thiruvananthapuram, Mar 18: Tobacco use is responsible for causing more than one health condition or multimorbidity among the elderly, thereby accentuating the burden by non-communicable diseases in Kerala, a new study reveals.


The seven-state study, published in a recent edition of BMJ Open (a leading online, open access journal on medical research), has brought out that Kerala has the highest prevalence of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

A high 45.5 per cent of 9,852 adults aged 60 or more were found to be an ‘ever tobacco user’ or those who had used tobacco at least once in their lifetime, found the study conducted using data collected by the United Nations Population Fund.

Hospitalisations within one year due to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were higher among ever tobacco users as against non-users, the study points out.

The study considered 12 NCDs such as arthritis, high-blood pressure, cataract, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, paralysis, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, dementia and cancer.  The study defines multimorbidity as the co-existence of at least two of these 12 selected NCDs in the same person.

Researchers attached to Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies of Sree Chitra Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology here and Centre for Public Health, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi carried out the study.

Titled ‘Pattern, correlates and implications of non-communicable disease multi-morbidity among older adults in selected Indian states: a cross-sectional study’, its aim was to estimate the proportion of older adults with multi-morbidity, its correlates and implications.

Dr KR Thankappan, Principal investigator of the study and Professor and Head of Achutha Menon Centre, said, “Tobacco-induced morbidity and multimorbidity is preventable through adequate tobacco control interventions. Through tobacco control, the physical and financial burden caused by non-communicable diseases in Kerala can be brought down to a large extent.”

Citing an earlier study, Dr Thankappan, who is also the Vice Chairman of Tobacco Free Kerala, said, “The economic burden on tobacco-induced diseases is Rs 1514 crore a year in Kerala; this is massive draining away of productive resources. Mainstreaming supply and demand reduction of tobacco in policy discourse and heightened enforcement to prevent youth initiation has become highly imperative.”

Dr GK Mini, Assistant Professor, Centre for Public Health, Amrita Institute, and principal author of the study, said, “Tobacco being a highly addictive substance, the key is to prevent initiation. Our educational institutions have to be made tobacco-free, both in letter and spirit.”

Other than Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Maharasthra, Odisha and West Bengal were included in the study. From each state, 1,280 households with older adults were selected. The sample covered 47 per cent men with a mean age of 68 years.  


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