The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Mental health and smoking are strongly linked

I found this article on a new site called Justmeans.  I have always known that my patients smoke to help them cope.  It is always good to discover science to support anecdotal evidence.

I remember when psychiatric units had a “smoking room” or a “smoking patio” and patients could go there to smoke and visit with staff and peers.  It is a shame that by going smokeless to promote physical health, we compromise mental health and miss a really great opportunity to really bond with our patients.  I am not an advocate of smoking, although I used to be a smoker.  I would have a really hard time now sitting in the smoking room despite filters and air conditioners.  What I miss though is that time when all the guards are down and you can really have a conversation with your patient about the problem they are dealing with.

Below is the article I found.  Please visit the original site and leave her a comment if you like.

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Alisa Ulferts | Friday 16th April 2010
166215927_48b7336d26_bResearchers have definitively confirmed what many in the health industry have long observed: People suffering from depression are far more likely to smoke than their non-depressed peers. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, found that people aged 20 and older with depression are twice as likely to be smokers. The CDC’s health researchers also found that people with more severe forms of depression were even more likely to be smokers. And people suffering from depression are less likely to quit smoking that those without the mental health condition.

CDC researchers said they expected to see the link when they conducted their study, but were surprised at just how strong and prevalent it was: About 21 percent of all Americans between the ages of 20 and 55 smoke – but that number increases to 43 percent among people with depressed mental health. Even worse: 50 percent of depressed women aged 20 to 39 smoke, whereas just 21 percent of those without the mental health disorder smoke. Even adults with mild depressive symptoms – those who wouldn’t be diagnosed with true clinical depression – were more likely to smoke than were people with no symptoms of depression, the researchers found.

Exactly why depressed people tend to smoke more was not addressed in the study, researchers said, but other research has suggested those individuals might be self-medicating with cigarettes. Many smokers, for example, report that cigarettes calm or relax them. What I also find interesting about this study is that it reminds me of another link I have read about: depression and asthma. While some research I’ve read about has suggested that link may lie in the body’s inflammatory response, I can’t help but wonder what role or complications the smoking/depression study reveals. I also wonder what all of this means for the future of treating people with depression and other mental health conditions. About 7 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and older had depression in 2005 to 2008, according to the CDC.

Nor did the CDC study look at whether there were children in the homes of the depressed smokers – an issue I’ve written about before. Children are more likely to suffer the ill effects of second-hand smoke than previously thought. A while back I wrote about a group of Finnish researchers who found that the health of kids as young as 13 can be seriously harmed: Kids can develop early signs of hardened and clogged arteries as a result of second-hand smoke exposure. And of course children in the homes of smokers are more likely to develop asthma, which, theoretically I suppose, could increase their chances of developing both depression and a smoking habit. It’s something to think about. What do you think?

Photo Credit: Superfantastic

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April 20, 2010 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , ,

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