Smoking is one of the world’s leading causes of preventable death and has long been tied to physical health risks such as lung cancer, heart attacks and COPD. However, the effects of smoking on one’s mental health are not as well publicized. A new study with data taken from The Tracing Opportunities and Problems in Childhood and Adolescence Study (TOPP) reveals that teenage smoking may lead to heightened anxiety levels later in life.
The study, conducted by Steven Moylan, a researcher at Australia’s Deakin University School of Medicine, examined the relationship between teen smoking and the onset of compromised mental health. For years, it has been known that smoking can take a toll on one’s mental health. Ironically, those living with mental disorders also have a higher probability of smoking than individuals with no psychological disorders. Moylan’s study focused on the connection between smoking and anxiety, particularly because smoking rates are already elevated among those who experience anxiety.
Moylan used a large sample taken from the TOPP study, and responses were gathered from participants from childhood up through early adulthood. He examined instances of teen smoking and its role with regard to early susceptibility. He also investigated the relationship between teen smoking and adolescent anxiety. Additionally, the data from the TOPP study was analyzed to see if emotional disposition, introversion and internalizing behaviors had any bearing on susceptibility to adolescent anxiety.
Starting Smoking As A Teen Linked To Higher Risk Of Anxiety
Moylan’s research revealed that adolescent smoking was a predictor of early vulnerability, meaning that teen smokers were at higher risk of developing anxiety in adulthood than their non-smoking peers. The opposite, however, was not true as Moylan found no link between teen anxiety and smoking as an adult.
The study also uncovered that children exhibiting internalizing behaviors and those with highly emotional temperaments had a tendency to smoke more as teens and experience anxiety as young adults. However, bashfulness or being more reserved was not a factor contributing to smoking in adolescence.
Anti-Smoking Campaigns And Further Research Could Benefit Teens
The key study take away is that teen smoking may elevate the risk of anxiety in those who are already susceptible to it. It appears that smoking provides an additional risk factor for some, heightening levels of anxiety as they progress throughout adulthood. The findings underscore the value in introducing anti-smoking and smoking-cessation campaigns in early childhood and that such efforts could positivity impact both physical and mental health.
Moylan’s study did not take the issue of depression into account. A further expansion of his research would be to isolate depression to see specifically how teen smoking impacts this and other mental health conditions.