Smokers are twice as likely to end up in a nursing home

Australia is set to record a doubling of the number of people aged 65 and over.

Australia is set to record a doubling of the number of people aged 65 and over. Photo: Getty

Adults over 60 who smoked were twice as likely to be admitted earlier to a nursing home, according to researchers from the University of Sydney.

Their New South Wales-based study followed more than 127,000 people aged over 60 for about 10 years.

Along the way, 18 per cent of participants were admitted to a nursing home.

The participants were ranked into three risk groups based on five equally contributing risk factors: Smoking, the quality of physical activity, sitting, sleep and diet.

Up to two points were awarded for each risk factor, for a total of 10 points. The higher the score, the healthier the participant.

The lower the score, the greater the risk of being admitted to care.

Compared with those in the low-risk group, the risk of nursing home admission was 43 per cent higher in the high-risk group and 12 per cent higher in the medium-risk group.

Smokers had a 55 per cent higher risk than non-smokers and were overall the highest at-risk group.

The research is being presented at the International Congress on Obesity in Melbourne, which is running from October 18 to 23.

Why this is important

The study was by Dr Alice Gibson from the Menzies Centre for Health Policy and Economics, University of Sydney, and colleagues.

An ageing population is one of “the most significant social and economic changes affecting almost every country in the world”, the authors say.

“Effective strategies to prevent or delay older adults entering nursing home care will help ensure society can adequately care for its increasing number of older people,” Dr Gibson said.

The risk for incident nursing-home admission was estimated using statistical modelling. Results were also investigated by age and body mass index (BMI) groups.

One-quarter of participants (24 per cent) were in the low-risk healthy lifestyle group (9-10 points); 62 per cent were in the medium-risk group (6-8 points), and 14 per cent were in the high-risk group (least healthy 0-5 points).

Those with the lowest lifestyle score (less than 2 points out of 10) saw their risk of nursing home admission doubled compared with those with the highest ‘healthiest’ scores (9 or 10 points).

The authors say the findings “add to the growing body of work supporting healthy lifestyle factors as strong contributors of metabolic and cognitive health, successful and independent ageing, resulting in reduced likelihood of nursing home admission”.

They said their study “highlights the potential of preventing or delaying nursing home admission among at-risk individuals during ageing with interventions that promote a healthy lifestyle”.

They said this could be “a powerful motivator for many individuals to adopt or maintain a healthier lifestyle”.

The authors conclude: “An unhealthy lifestyle, irrespective of overweight or obesity, was associated with a marked increased risk of admission to a nursing home in adults aged 60 years and over.”

This association was strongest in men and women aged 60 to 74 years, compared to those aged 75 years and over.

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