passive smoking link with mental health problems

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We all know that passive smoking can be damaging to our physical health but now for the first time scientists have been able to link passive smoking with mental health problems too.

According to a study involving more than 8,000 Scots, exposure to second hand cigarette smoke can triple the risk of being admitted to a psychiatric ward when compared to those who live in a smoke free environment.

The survey was conducted by researchers from University College London who drew their sample from the Scottish Health Survey database.

The study involved 5,560 non smokers and 2,595 smokers, none of which had a history of mental illness.

Non smoking participants were examined for traces of second hand smoke exposure by saliva tests which tested for the presence of cotinine, a biological marker of smoke exposure.

Everyone involved in the survey filled out a questionnaire which asked questions relating to psychological distress such as depression symptoms, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

Admissions to psychiatric hospitals were tracked over a six year follow up period.

For the purposes of the study, “psychological distress” was defined as a low mood that wasn’t quite at the level required for a clinical diagnosis of depression but which could develop into something more serious.

The results showed that those with cotinine levels of between 0.70 and 15 micrograms per litre had a higher risk of psychological distress than those who had no detectable levels of cotinine in their saliva.

Psychological distress was experienced by 9 percent of non smokers who had a very low level of exposure to second hand tobacco smoke and 14 percent for those who had a higher exposure.

All in all 41 individuals were admitted to a psychiatric ward over the 6 year follow up and both smokers and non smokers with high exposure to smoke were more likely to be admitted to hospital for mental health problems.

“Taken together, therefore, our data are consistent with other emerging evidence to suggest a causal role of nicotine exposure in mental health” wrote the study authors.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a prospective association between objectively assessed second hand smoke exposure and mental health in a representative sample of a general population” they concluded.

What the study didn’t reveal was whether people who are predisposed to mental health problems are more likely to be in smoke filled environments.

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