NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Among Older Women: Smokers Weaker, Moderate Drinkers Stronger Than Teetotalers, Study Finds


January 1995

Older women who smoke or used to smoke are weaker than nonsmokers, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Heidi D. Nelson, MD,, "Smoking, Alcohol, and Neuromuscular and Physical Function of Older Women," Journal of the American Medical Association, Dec. 21, 1994, p. 1825-1831; Oz Hopkins Koglin, "Women Smokers Weaken With Age," The Oregonian, Dec. 21, 1994, p. C-10).

9,704 women 65 years of age or older from four areas were given physical and balance tests. Women who smoke or used to smoke scored well below nonsmokers. On the other hand, women who were moderate drinkers (having between one and 14 drinks in the previous week) scored higher than nondrinkers on all but one of the physical and balance tests.

"Our interpretation is not that alcohol is beneficial, but that light levels of drinking represent a social lifestyle," lead author Nelson said.

The smokers or former smokers showed decreased motor, strength, and balance abilities comparable to nonsmokers who were five years older. "For the older woman," Nelson said, "smoking may have the same effect as adding five years to a person's age. This is one more good reason not to smoke."