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Study confirms that living with a smoker increases absenteeism in school children
Date:9/4/2011

Children who live in households where they are exposed to tobacco smoke miss more days of school than do children living in smoke-free homes, a new nationwide study confirms. The report from investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) which finds these children have higher rates of respiratory illnesses that can be caused by second-hand smoke and details the probable economic costs of their increased school absence has been released in the online edition of Pediatrics.

"Among children ages 6 to 11 who live with smokers, one quarter to one third of school absences are due to household smoking," says Douglas Levy, PhD, of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at MGH, the paper's lead author. "On a national basis these absences result in $227 million in lost wages and time for caregivers or their employers."

The authors note that one-third of U.S. children live with at least one smoker, and more than half of those aged 3 to 11 have detectable levels of a blood marker for tobacco exposure. Second-hand smoking has been shown to increase incidence of ear infections and several respiratory conditions, and school absenteeism is an accessible measure of serious illness in children. Earlier studies of the relationship between lost school days and household smoking have focused on local populations and did not evaluate the severity of the problem's impact. The MGH team analyzed data from the 2005 National Health Interview Study, an annual in-person survey of representative households nationwide.

Adults responding from households with schoolchildren ages 6 to 11 were asked to evaluate each child's general health and to answer the following questions:

  • how many people smoked inside the home
  • how many school days the child missed due to illness or injury during the previous year
  • whether the child had three or more ear infections during the previous year
  • whether the child had a chest cold or gast
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Contact: Katie Marquedant
kmarquedant@partners.org
617-726-0337
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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