1.5 Prevalence of smoking—middle-aged and older adults

Last updated: June 2017
Suggested citation: Greenhalgh, EM, Bayly, M, & Winstanley, MH. 1.5 Prevalence of smoking—middle-aged and older adults. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2015. Available from http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-1-prevalence/1-5-prevalence-of-smoking-middle-aged-and-older-ad

1.5.1 Latest estimates of prevalence among middle-aged and older adults

The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey examined smoking prevalence among adults aged 40 years and over.1  As noted in the preceding section, people aged under 40 years are generally more likely to smoke than those in older age groups. Table 1.5.1 shows the prevalence of smoking at various frequencies among middle-aged and older adults in 2016.

Table 1.5.1
Table 1.5.1 Middle-aged and older adults: percentage of daily, regular and current smokers* 2016—by age group, sex and total population (%)


* Includes persons smoking any combination of cigarettes (factor-made and roll-your-own), pipes or cigars

Smoked more than 100 cigarettes (manufactured or roll-your own) or the equivalent amount of tobacco in their life but reports no longer smoking.

Never smoked more than 100 cigarettes (manufactured or roll-your own) or the equivalent amount of tobacco.

^ Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.1

# Estimate has a high level of sampling error (relative standard error of 51% to 90%), meaning that it is unsuitable for most uses.1   

National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 key findings, Table 2.1  


1.5.2 Trends in smoking prevalence among middle-aged and older adults

Consistent with smoking patterns from 2001 onward, in 2013, middle-aged (40–59 years) and older (60+ years) men were significantly more likely to have smoked at some time in their lives (that is, were a current or ex-smokers) than men aged under 40 years—see Tables 1.4.1 and 1.5.1. Patterns among women, however, have varied over time. Like middle-aged men, middle-aged women were significantly more likely to have ever smoked than younger women (aged under 40 years) in each of the survey years except 2001, when prevalence was similar. Conversely, the oldest age group (60+ years) were less likely than women under 40 years to have ever smoked up until 2010. In 2013, for the first time, both middle-aged and older women were significantly more likely to have ever smoked than women under the age of 40.

Decreasing smoking rates among the older population reflect increased quitting activity, with past studies showing that older age groups of both sexes have the highest quit proportions (defined as the proportion of ever smokers who have quit smoking).3,4 These patterns were also seen in 2013; men and women over 60 had the highest quit proportions (80% and 76%, respectively), followed by middle-aged men and women (61% and 66%, respectively). Proportions were lowest among men and women under 40 (41% and 50%, respectively). However, tobacco-caused death and illness occurring among smokers in older age groups are also significant factors in the declining smoking rates seen in the older population, with the greatest proportion of burden of disease due to smoking affecting those aged 55–75 years.5

Table 1.5.2 and Figure 1.5.1 show that smoking prevalence has declined significantly in smokers aged 40–59 since 2001. However, among those aged 60+, only a weak trend toward a significant decline was observed over the same time period. Smoking prevalence among those aged 60+ years in 2013 was significantly lower than in 2001, but was not significantly different from that observed in 2004–2010.

Table 1.5.2
Middle-aged and older adults: percentage of regular* smokers† from 1995–2013‡by age group, sex and total population for age group (%) 


* Includes those reporting that they smoke ‘daily’ or ‘at least weekly’.

† Includes persons smoking any combination of cigarettes, pipes or cigars.

‡ All data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition.

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer analysis of National Drug Strategy Household Survey data from 1995 to 2013

Figure 1.5.1
Prevalence of regular* smokers† in Australia aged 18+, 1995 to 2013—by age range‡ (%) 

* Includes those reporting that they smoke ‘daily’ or ‘at least weekly’.

† Includes persons smoking any combination of cigarettes, pipes or cigars.

‡ All data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition.

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer analysis of National Drug Strategy Household Survey data from 1995 to 2013.

Data from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey provides more detailed information on smoking prevalence in older Australians. In 2016, 13% of people aged between 55 and 64, 9% of people aged between 65 and 74, and 5% of people aged 75 or more smoked on a daily basis.1


References

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 key findings data tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2017. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/alcohol-and-other-drugs/data-sources/ndshs-2016/data/.

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report: 2013. Cat. no. PHE 183 Canberra: AIHW, 2014. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129549469&tab=3.

3. Hill DJ, White VM, and Scollo MM. Smoking behaviours of Australian adults in 1995: trends and concerns. Medical Journal of Australia, 1998; 168(5):209–13. Available from: http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/mar2/hill/hill.html

4. Gartner CE, Barendregt JJ, and Hall WD. Predicting the future prevalence of cigarette smoking in Australia: how low can we go and by when? Tobacco Control, 2009; 18:1839. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/tc.2008.027615v1  

5. Begg S, Vos T, Barker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L, et al. The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003. AIHW cat. no. PHE 82.Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2007. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10317 .

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