December 22, 2008


Time magazine article links tobacco use, early death among people with severe mental illness

—by Paul M. Kubek and Matthew K. Weiland

Columbus, OH—The Ohio Tobacco and Recovery stages-of-change model is among the nation's cutting-edge efforts to improve health outcomes among people diagnosed with severe mental illness, because it is designed specifically to address the unique needs of this population. A recent story in Time magazine identified the high incidence of tobacco use and dependence among people with severe mental illness as one of the growing health concerns in the United States. Service organizations and systems that are interested in improving health outcomes are encouraged to contact the Ohio Tobacco and Recovery Project.

The Time story written by Kate Torgovnick also discusses the high incidence of obesity and diabetes in this population. Torgovnick writes, "Indeed, the causes of physical illness and death among psychiatric patients are much the same as those in other groups—cigarette smoking, obesity, diabetes—and are treatable. The problem is that people with serious mental illness tend to be low on the socioeconomic totem pole and often don't get the best available health care. Frequently, their own doctors pay little heed to their patients' physical health."

Get the full story online (click here).


Torgovnick refers to a study published in 2006 by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), titled "Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness". (The report was co-edited by former ODMH Medical Director Dale Svendsen, MD, who is also a member of the advisory committee of the Ohio Tobacco and Recovery Project.) According to Torgovnick, "the report analyzed data from 16 states and found that, on average, people with severe mental illness die 25 years earlier than the general population." Statistics from other studies quoted in the story also include the following:

  • 22 percent of the general population smokes
  • More than 75 percent of people with severe mental illness are tobacco dependent
  • 44 percent of all cigarettes in the United States are consumed by people with psychiatric histories


The Ohio Tobacco and Recovery stages-of-change model was designed by the Center for Evidence-Based Practices (CEBP) at Case Western Reserve University in collaboration with Ohio stakeholders to address the needs of residents in Ohio who have a severe mental illness and/or substance use disorder. (Editor's note: The service model has been renamed "Tobacco: Recovery Across the Continuum.") For more information, consult this page from our website (click here).


Kate Torgovnick (2008). Why Do the Mentally Ill Die Younger? Time. Wednesday, Dec. 03, 2008.
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Paul M. Kubek, MA, is director of communications and Matthew K. Weiland, MA, is senior writer, producer, and new-media specialist at the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University.