Addicts Not the Only Ones Harmed By Smoking Addiction

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Secondhand smoke exposure may increase psychological distress and risk of psychiatric hospitalization in the future.

The Study

Researchers at University College London looked at 5,560 non-smokers and 2,595 smokers without a history of mental illness. Participants completed a questionnaire that assessed psychological distress and the researchers tracked admissions to psychiatric hospitals over the next 6 years. To assess non-smokers' exposure to secondhand smoke, their saliva was tested for levels of cotinine, which is formed as a byproduct of nicotine metabolism.

Smokers and non-smokers with cotinine levels indicating high secondhand smoke exposure were more likely to report psychological distress than non-smokers with no secondhand smoke exposure. Over the next six years, smokers and exposed non-smokers also proved more likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric condition such as depression, schizophrenia, or delirium.

Why Is This Important?

According to the background information included in the research article, estimates indicate that as many as 60% of non-smokers in the United States have significant exposure to secondhand smoke. This is a huge number of people who may be experiencing negative effects from smoking addiction even though they themselves are not addicts. Other studies have suggested a link between smoking and negative mood or depression, and this study extends that association to all people exposed to cigarette smoke. If you're having trouble quitting smoking, consider the positive impact kicking your addiction will have on those around you as well as yourself.

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