Kansas adults with mental illness are twice as likely to use tobacco as adults without mental illness, according to a new report by RTI International and funded by the Kansas Health Foundation.

The report found 37.8% of Kansas adults with mental illness smoke, compared to 17.3% of adults without mental illness. Nearly one-half of Kansas adults who experience mental illness reported smoking in the last 30 days.

Smoking rates are highest among those with serious mental illness, multiple disorders and substance use disorders.

To conduct the study, researchers used data from the 2012 Kansas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the 2011 Kansas Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which assess risk factors and health behaviors and include questions about tobacco use and mental health.

The analysis also showed that low-income Kansans with mental illness are more likely to be smokers (40.1%). Individuals below the poverty level make up 9.8% of the adult population in the state, but account for 24% of the adult population with mental illness.

While smoking rates are highest among Kansans with mental illness, the report found that adults with mental illness are more likely to have tried to quit smoking than those without mental illness. The research showed 64.7% of Kansas smokers with mental illness made an attempt to quit, compared to 55.3% of those without mental illness.

“The smoking rate among adults with mental illness remains high despite progress made in tobacco control and the decrease of smoking among the general population,” said Betty Brown, research health analyst at RTI and lead author of the study. “As a result, people with mental illness are at an increased risk of negative health, financial, and social outcomes associated with their tobacco use.”

Additional findings include:

  • In 2012, 10.2% of Kansas adults reported experiencing mental illness, and 3.4% of adults reported experiencing serious mental illness.
  • Mental illness is significantly associated with poor physical health, including health problems exacerbated by smoking.
  • Youth who reported mental illness were more than twice as likely to be current smokers (26.8%) as youth without mental illness (10.9%).

“Our findings emphasize the importance of collaboration between the mental health and tobacco control communities to provide cessation support to individuals with mental illness who use tobacco,” Brown said.