Study Shows Role of Depression in the Ongoing Tobacco Epidemic

Study Shows Role of Depression in the Ongoing Tobacco Epidemic

The prevalence of smoking has remained fairly stable over the past decade after declining sharply for many years.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health analyzed changes in the prevalence of depression among current, former and new smokers in the U.S. to determine whether an increase in certain barriers to successful cessation and sustained abstinence may be contributing to this slowed decline.

“The prevalence of depression increased and remains higher among current smokers overall, but the rate of the increase among former and never smokers was even more prominent,” noted Dr. Renee Goodwin, lead researcher. The research indicates that depression remains a real concern for current smokers, noting the significance between smoking and mental health concerns.

The concern is prominent with youth smokers, which still remains fairly high in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: each day in the United States, more than 3,200 youth aged 18 years or younger smoke their first cigarette, and an additional 2,100 youth and young adults become daily cigarette smokers. If smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. That’s about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger alive today.

“The very high rates of depression among the youngest smokers, those aged 12-17, is very concerning, as it may impair their ability not only to stop smoking, but also to navigate the developmental tasks of adolescence that are important for a successful adult life,” said Dr. Deborah Hasin, a senior member of the research team.

Smoking not only affects mental health, but physical health. According to the CDC:

  • Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant and can affect her baby's health before and after birth.
  • Smoking can affect bone health. Women past childbearing years who smoke have weaker bones than women who never smoked, and are at greater risk for broken bones.
  • Smoking affects the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss.
  • Smoking can increase your risk for cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it hard for you to see) and age-related macular degeneration (damage to a small spot near the center of the retina, the part of the eye needed for central vision).
  • Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes mellitus and can make it harder to control. The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40% higher for active smokers than nonsmokers.
  • Smoking causes general adverse effects on the body, including inflammation and decreased immune function.
  • Smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.

Source: CADCA’s Geographic Health Equity Alliance (GHEA)

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