London, Feb 18 (ANI): Neither affluence nor being female offers a defence against the ill heath caused by smoking, according to a new study.
The study has shown that smoking itself is a greater source of health inequalities than social position.
Among both men and women, smokers of all social classes had a much higher risk of premature death than non-smokers from even the lowest social classes.
Surprisingly, non-smoking women in the lowest social classes had one of the lowest death rates.
The research also found that the survival advantage that women normally have over men is cancelled out by smoking.
Dr Laurence Gruer and Dr David Gordon from NHS Health Scotland and Professor Graham Watt and Dr Carole Hart from the University of Glasgow studied the impact of smoking on the survival rates of 15,000 men and women recruited in 1972-76 from Renfrew and Paisley in the West of Scotland.
The participants were grouped by gender and social class and further divided into smokers, never-smokers and ex-smokers. The social class category was sub-divided as I and II (highest); III non manual; III manual; and IV and V (lowest).
Death rates for the participants were assessed after 14 years and 28 years.
The researchers found that, during both follow-up periods, smokers had much higher death rates than never-smokers among both women and men and in every social class.
After 28 years of follow-up, 56 percent of female never-smokers and 36 percent of male never-smokers in the lowest social classes (IV and V) were still alive compared with only 41 percent of female smokers and 24 percent of male smokers in the top two social class groups (I and II). Smokers in the lowest social classes fared even worse.
On a positive note, the researchers found that the death rates of ex-smokers were much closer to those of never-smokers than smokers, showing that quitting does make a difference regardless of social position.
The study has been published online in the British Medical Journal. (ANI)