INTRODUCTION: Smoking is considered the single most important preventable cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, contributing to increased incidence and severity of disabling conditions. The aim of this study was to assess the contribution of chronic conditions to the disability burden across smoking categories in middle-aged adults in Belgium.
METHODS: Data from 10,224 individuals aged 40 to 60 years who participated in the 1997, 2001, 2004, or 2008 Health Interview Surveys in Belgium were used. Smoking status was defined as never, former (cessation ≥2 years), former (cessation <2 years), occasional light (<20 cigarettes/day), daily light, and daily heavy (≥20 cigarettes/day). To attribute disability to chronic conditions, binomial additive hazards models were fitted separately for each smoking category adjusted for gender, except for former (cessation <2 years) and occasional light smokers due to the small sample size.
RESULTS: An increasing trend in the disability prevalence was observed across smoking categories in men (never = 4.8%, former (cessation ≥2 years) = 5.8%, daily light = 7.8%, daily heavy = 10.7%) and women (never = 7.6%, former (cessation ≥2 years) = 8.0%, daily light = 10.2%, daily heavy = 12.0%). Musculoskeletal conditions showed a substantial contribution to the disability burden in men and women across all smoking categories. Other important contributors were depression and cardiovascular diseases in never smokers; depression, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes in former smokers (cessation ≥2 years); chronic respiratory diseases, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases in daily light smokers; cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases in men and depression and diabetes in women daily heavy smokers.
CONCLUSIONS: Beyond the well-known effect of smoking on mortality, our findings showed an increasing trend of the disability prevalence and different contributors to the disability burden across smoking categories. This information can be useful from a public health perspective to define strategies to reduce disability in Belgium.