The Global Burden of Disease Study is an international collaboration of researchers from 127 countries, with the aim of gathering and interpreting data on disease across the world. It is based at the University of Washington, and made possible largely through funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
A recent report from this group, published in the Lancet journal (May 13, 2017) has provided an interesting overview of the prevalence of smoking across the world, and the burden that this places on population health.
Key findings include worldwide smoking prevalence of 25% among males and 5.4% among females. Countries studied were categorised as low, middle or high Socio-demographic index (SDI) with high denoting more developed affluent countries. Prevalence for smoking amongst males was highest in the middle SDI countries, whereas it was highest amongst females in countries with high SDI.
The global trend between 1990 and 2015 was for a decrease in the prevalence of tobacco consumption, a 28.4% relative reduction among males, 34.4% reduction among females. 11.5% of all global deaths (6.4million) are attributed to smoking, with 52.2% of such deaths occurring in 4 countries, (China, India, the USA and Russia).
Of 195 countries included in the analysis, among females Ireland rank 12th highest in prevalence of smokers at 21.9%, fewer Irish males smoke at 20.6% ranking 109th by international standards (Kiribati took the top spot with age adjusted prevalence of 47.8% for males).
The cause of one in 10 deaths globally, responsible for 6 millions deaths in 2015 alone, smoking is appropriately characterised as a global health disaster. Studies such as this indicate the extent of the challenge. Although prevalence of smoking has been in decline in Ireland, the rate of decline is small (1.4% for males and 0.5% for females) over 25 years, and worryingly is getting smaller among females. Addressing this epidemic, which directly affects 1 in 5 adults in this country, will remain one of the major public health challenges for the foreseeable future.
Brian J Manning