Tobacco use in people with severe mental illness: Findings from a multi-country survey of mental health institutions in South Asia

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INTRODUCTION: People with severe mental illness (SMI) tend to die early due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, which may be linked to tobacco use. There is limited information on tobacco use in people with SMI in low- and middle-income countries where most tobacco users reside. We present novel data on tobacco use in people with SMI and their access to tobacco cessation advice in South Asia.

METHODS: We conducted a multi-country survey of adults with SMI attending mental health facilities in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. Using data collected with a standardized WHO STEPS survey tool, we estimated the prevalence and distribution of tobacco use and assessed receipt of tobacco cessation advice.

RESULTS: We recruited 3874 participants with SMI; 46.8% and 15.0% of men and women consumed tobacco, respectively. Smoking prevalence in men varied by country (Bangladesh 42.8%, India 20.1% and Pakistan 31.7%); <4% of women reported smoking in each country. Smokeless tobacco use in men also varied by country (Bangladesh 16.2%, India 18.2% and Pakistan 40.8%); for women, it was higher in Bangladesh (19.1%), but similar in India (9.9%) and Pakistan (9.1%). Just over a third of tobacco users (38.4%) had received advice to quit tobacco. Among smokers, 29.1% (n=244) made at least one quit attempt in the past year. There was strong evidence for the association between tobacco use and the severity of depression (OR=1.29; 95% CI: 1.12-1.48) and anxiety (OR=1.29; 95% CI: 1.12-1.49).

CONCLUSIONS: As observed in high-income countries, we found higher tobacco use in people with SMI, particularly in men compared with rates reported for the general population in South Asia. Tobacco cessation support within mental health services offers an opportunity to close the gap in life expectancy between SMI and the general population.


Original languageEnglish
Article number166
Number of pages13
JournalTobacco induced diseases
Issue numberDecember
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 Rajan S. et al.


  • cessation
  • KEYWORDS severe mental illness
  • smokeless tobacco
  • smoking

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