Are smokers more likely to develop mental health problems?

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According to a recent study carried out by researchers from the Cardiff Institute of Society and Health at Cardiff University and Ash Wales, smokers are indeed more likely to be treated for a mental illness.

The study involved an analysis of the health profile of 13,000 people, some who were smokers, some who are ex smokers and some who have never smoked at all.

Female smokers were almost twice as likely as male smokers to have been treated for a mental illness. In total 14 percent of the smokers had suffered some sort of mental health problem requiring treatment compared to only 8 percent of the non smokers.

Not only did the study find that the smokers were more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem, it also revealed that 50 percent of the smokers drank more than the recommended alcohol limits compared to less than 40 percent of those who had never smoked.

Smokers were also more likely to binge drink (35 percent compared to 31 percent of ex smokers and 23 percent of non smokers). On top of that they were more likely to have a poor diet (only 28 percent of smokers ate the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day whereas almost 40 percent of the non smokers did) and to take less exercise.

The study’s finding will be presented at a tobacco control conference by Dr Sarah Whitehead, the lead researcher in the study.

In other words, smokers generally indulge in an unhealthy lifestyle all round and previous studies have revealed that a poor diet and lack of exercise can also increase risk of mental health problems.

So what about the effect of passive smoking on mental health?

A separate study from the US involving children aged four to 15 years from both smoking and non-smoking families found that children who were regularly exposed to passive smoking had twice the incidence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and stuttering and were more likely to suffer from headaches.  This was after taking into account other factors that could have skewed the results.

This research was recently presented at the Asia Pacific Conference on Tobacco or Health in Sydney.

There’s no doubt now that smoking is detrimental to health in general and although no one is saying that smoking actually causes mental health problems, the research indicates that it can have a considerable impact and not just on the smoker.

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