Prevalence of smoking in those aged 50+
The SHARE survey conducted in Luxembourg, and 19 other European countries (and Israel), in 2013 provides insight into the prevalence of smoking in the over 50s.
Fewer female smokers among over 50s
In 2013, Luxembourg counted 15.7% of smokers in its population over 50, with fewer female smokers than male smokers at 13.4% and 18.2% respectively. This is also a phenomenon that decreases with age, both for men and women. For example, in Luxembourg the prevalence of smoking for men decreases from 22.5% among 50 -54 year-olds to 5.7% among those aged 80+ (18 % and 3.1% respectively for women).
Quitting smoking of benefit at any age
Quitting smoking is beneficial at any age, even for older people. Studies have shown that life expectancy could be increased by 6 years when a smoker quits at age 50. Stopping smoking for people aged 60-69 reduces the risk of death by 21% and 23% for people over 80.
Few studies focus on smoking among those aged 50+. The SHARE survey, the first European survey of health, ageing and retirement of the population aged 50 and over, conducted in 2013 in Luxembourg, and in nineteen other European countries and Israel, can provide an insight into the issue (for more information, click here). This survey explores a range of topics associated with health, including behavioural risks such as tobacco use.
In 2013, the prevalence of smoking among those aged 50+ in countries participating in the SHARE survey ranges from 12.9% for Sweden to 24.8% for the Czech Republic. Luxembourg has the second lowest proportion of smokers among those aged 50+ (15.7%).
In all countries which participated in the SHARE survey, the prevalence of smoking among the over-fifties is lower for women than for men. Luxembourg is not an exception with a smoking rate among those aged 50+ of 13.4% among women compared with 18.2% among men. This is also a phenomenon which decreases with age, both for men and women. For example, in Luxembourg, the prevalence of smoking for men decreases from 22.5% among 50 to 54 year-olds to 5.7% among those aged 80+ (18.7% and 3.1% respectively for women). The drop in the prevalence of smoking with age could be due to a change in behaviour with age or a cohort effect, but unfortunately, it may also be due to a "survival bias" associated with the earlier mortality of smokers among older people.
In Luxembourg, 31.3% of people aged 50+ are also former smokers. Former smokers are defined as people who smoked for at least one year during their life but who no longer smoked at the time of the survey in 2013. These results are close to those of neighbouring Belgium (30.1%), Germany (29.4%) and France (31.2%).
It should be noted that quitting smoking is beneficial at any age, even for older people. Studies have shown that life expectancy could be increased by six and three years when a smoker quits at age 50 and 60 respectively (for more information, click here). Even after 60, quitting is beneficial: it reduces the risk of death by 21% for people aged 60 to 69, by 27% for those aged between 70 and 79, and by 23% for people over 80 (for more information, click here).
Luxembourg residents aged 50+
SHARE survey, wave 5, 2013, LISER calculations
In 2013, 22.5% of men resident in Luxembourg aged 50-54 years were smokers.