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June 2024
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Secondhand Smoke May Increase Psychological Stress, UK Study Says

Exposure to secondhand smoke produces psychological stress and predisposes individuals to a higher risk of being hospitalized due to psychiatric illnesses.

In a study performed by researchers from the University College London, it was found that individuals who were exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to suffer from psychological distress than people who were not exposed. The risk of psychological distress from secondhand smoke exposure is a staggering 50% – a significant risk percentage.

In addition to psychological stress, it was also found that people who regularly inhaled other people’s smoke were 3 times more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric facility in less than 7 years.  Smokers on the other hand, are four times more likely to be hospitalized due to psychological distress and other psychiatric problems.

The dangers of passive smoking

The researchers were able to measure the degree of a person’s exposure to nicotine by marking and measuring the compound cotinine, which is the chemical byproduct of nicotine after it has been metabolized/processed by the body.  The compound cotinine can be found in a person’s saliva.  The UK study tracked more than 5,000 smokers and 2,000+ non-smokers; all respondents of the study had no prior history of mental illnesses.

Within six years of the study, forty-one individuals from both the groups were admitted to a psychiatric facility.  More than fourteen percent of all the subjects of the UK study reported some degree of psychological stress.  After filters were applied, the researchers stated that despite differences in social circumstance, the risk factors still applied to both smoker and non-smokers. The study made use of a general questionnaire, which allowed the researchers to measure the exposure of secondhand smoke.

Based on the study, “passive smoking” or mere exposure to secondhand smoke increases  a person’s risk for psychological stress by more sixty percent. Prior to the more recent UK study, earlier animal studies showed that tobacco can alter an animal’s mood, which suggested a link between tobacco use and clinical depression in humans.

Tobacco: a poor stress reliever

This study shows that tobacco use is not a good coping strategy – instead of providing stress relief, it actually produces psychological stress. In a study published by the Journal of Pediatric Psychology (Oxford University Press) it was found that younger individuals are more prone to using tobacco as a coping strategy against stress.  It was found that smoking did not provide any significant stress relief to the respondents.


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