3.31 Morbidity and mortality due to tobacco-caused disease and socio-economic disadvantage

Last updated: July 2020
Suggested citation: Greenhalgh, EM, Scollo, MM, & Pearce, M. 3.31 Morbidity and mortality due to tobacco-caused disease and socio-economic disadvantage. In Greenhalgh, EM, Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2020. Available from http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/3-31-morbidity-and-mortality-due-to-tobacco-caused


3.31 Morbidity and mortality due to tobacco-caused disease and socio-economic disadvantage

Ill-health and rates of premature death in Australia show a clear gradient across socio-economic status (SES) groups.1 People who are more advantaged can afford better food and housing, better health care, and healthy activities. They also generally have more knowledge of healthy choices and behaviours.2

People who are disadvantaged are more likely to live with multiple risks to their health. Lower socio-economic status is associated with higher rates of obesity, lack of adequate physical activity, and diabetes—especially so among Indigenous communities.3

There is also a clear social gradient among people who smoke, with lower education and income linked with higher rates of smoking (see Section 9.1). Social differentials in smoking during pregnancy, cigarette consumption, duration of smoking, and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke contribute substantially to socio-economic differentials in health status and mortality. Current smokers are much less likely than non-smokers to be in good health and the incidence of numerous diseases is significantly higher among smokers and recent ex-smokers than among long-time ex-smokers and never smokers.4, 5

For a detailed discussion of the contribution of smoking to health inequalities in Australia, see Section 9.3. For a discussion of morbidity and mortality caused by smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, see Section 8.7


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References for Section 3.31

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australian burden of disease study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015. Australian Burden of Disease, Canberra: AIHW, 2019. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/burden-of-disease/burden-disease-study-illness-death-2015/contents/summary.

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s health 2016. Australia’s health series no. 15. Cat. no. AUS 199. Canberra: AIHW; 2016. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129555544.

3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s health 2018. Australia’s health series no. 16. AUS 221, Canberra: AIHW, 2018. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018/contents/table-of-contents.

4. US Department of Health and Human Services. The health consequences of smoking: 50 years of progress. A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014. Available from: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/50-years-of-progress/full-report.pdf.

5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2019 key findings data tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/contents/table-of-contents.