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Tuesday, January 12, 1999 Published at 17:52 GMT


Smoking hits women hard

Smoking significantly reduces female life expectancy

Smoking appears to be shortening women's lives more than those of men, research has found.

Western women currently live an average of five years longer than men, but according to an analysis by insurance assessors men are catching up.

Part of the reason seems to be that women are more affected by smoking than men.

The report showed that 30-year-old women smokers are likely to die seven years sooner than non-smokers.

Men who smoked were expected to shorten their lives by 5.5 years, according to the report from the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries.

Death rates are twice as high among women smokers compared with those who do not smoke. Among men, the death rate for smokers is 1.7 times higher than among non-smokers.

Appalling consequences

[ image: Smoking also takes years off a man's life]
Smoking also takes years off a man's life
A spokeswoman for the anti-smoking pressure group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: "Women are now reaping the appalling consequences of smoking and may even be at greater risk of dying prematurely than men who smoke.

"In the race to catch up with male smokers women have stepped into the lead.

"Smoking like men means they will not only die like men but die sooner."

Recent research has shown that women smokers are more likely to suffer the most severe and lethal form of lung cancer than men.

This could be linked with the type of cigarettes smoked by women or the way they smoke.

Also, once women pass the menopause they become more prone to heart disease than men, and if they smoke this risk is heightened further.

The report showed that between 1959-62 a man aged 30 was expected to live to an age of 73 years and 11 months.

No female figure was given for this period, but by 1975-78 the life span of 30-year-old males had increased to 76 years while women were expected to live to 80 years 11 months.

Longer life

Life expectancy improved in 1991-94 to 79 years and three months for men and 84 years and four months for women.

But although life expectancy for both sexes had improved, it had improved at a faster rate for men than for women.

This was illustrated by comparing the number of holders of life and endowment policies who died between 1991 and 1994 with the number who died during earlier periods.

Male deaths in 1991-1994 were only 66.4% of the number that occurred in 1975-1978, but for females the figure was 70.8%

A comparison between deaths occurring in 1991-94 and the period 1987-90 produced figures of 88.7% for men and 92% for women.

The report also indicated that men were quitting smoking at a faster rate than women.

Since 1988-90 the proportion of men holding life or endowment policies who smoked had dropped 6% from 31% to 25%. This was double the decline among female smokers, who fell from 24% of the total to 21%.

Colin Kirkwood, chairman of the actuarial profession's Continuous Mortality Investigation Bureau, which compiled the statistics, said: "Our look at the statistics confirmed that people are now tending to live substantially longer than they were even a few years ago.

"This may be due to better medical treatment and healthier lifestyles - it is significant in this context that the gap in life expectancy between smokers and non-smokers is so large. We predict that people will be living even longer by the time we next report on this subject, in 2000."

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