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In press: Smokers cause increased health care costs already in their middle age


Cardiovascular disease, COPD, cancer, and more—smoking is a well-known and important risk factor for various illnesses. However, according to a recent study, the negative effects of smoking are evident long before the diagnosis of smoking-related diseases. The Finnish study published in March 2016 reveals that by the age of 46, smokers already use significantly more primary health care services than never-smokers.

The study assessed utilization of primary health care services by almost five thousand 46-year-olds belonging to the Northern Finland Birth Cohort. Visits to both occupational and public health care professionals were determined and categorized, and the mean costs were calculated.

According to the study, smokers use more primary health care services than never-smokers and are especially more likely to visit a dentist or a physician. Annual primary health care cost for smokers was at least one fifth higher than never-smokers: this equals more than €100 extra cost per person each year.

“At the population level, this extra cost caused by smoking is significant”, states Juha Auvinen, the research physician and coordinator of the Northern-Finland Birth Cohort.

The cost of smoking is known to add a significant burden to the public economy in several ways: sick leave, associated lost productivity, as well as health care utilization. Placing additional effort into smoking cessation of working-age people might not only reduce smoking-related mortality and morbidity but also decrease health care costs.

The study was conducted as a collaboration between MedEngine Oy, University of Oulu, and Pfizer Ltd.

Keto J, Ventola H, Jokelainen J, Timonen M, Linden K, Ylisaukko-oja T, Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi S, Auvinen J. Primary health care utilisation and its costs among middle-aged smokers. Eur J Health Econ. 2016 (Mar 23). (

Hanna Ventola

Hanna Ventola

Ever since receiving her MSc in biotechnology at the University of Helsinki, Hanna has been driven by the opportunity to make the most out of health data. Hanna doesn’t hide her enthusiasm when talking about the advantages of private—public partnership in medical research and the implementation of real-world data for optimizing treatment practices and improving patients’ quality of life. Hanna is currently finishing her PhD thesis on hemophilia. As a positive and easily inspired person, Hanna is always ready for a new challenge. Outside of work, the football enthusiasm of her two sons makes up most of her free time.