According to a new study, smoking is not only harmful to lung and cardiovascular health, but has also been shown to affect the mental health of young people.
When targeted at smokers, especially young people, anti-smoking campaigns focus on the risks of smoking to lung and heart health and its impact on premature skin aging.
However, these are not the only risks faced by smokers. Smoking also has a negative impact on mental health by increasing the risk of depression, according to a new study carried out by researchers from the University of Jerusalem (Israel), the University of Belgrade (Serbia) and the University of Pristina (Kosovo) and published in PLOS One.
Less depressive symptoms in non smokers
In order to reach this conclusion, the researchers conducted a survey among more than 2000 students from Serbian universities. They found that students who smoked had two to three times as much clinical depression as their non-smoking peers. At the University of Pristina in particular, 14% of smokers suffered from depression, compared to 4% of non-smoking students, while at the University of Belgrade it was 19% and 11% respectively.
Even taking into account the economic and socio-political background of the students, their results remained the same. “Our study adds to the growing evidence that smoking and depression are closely linked,” says Hagai Levine, researcher at the University of Jerusalem and lead author of the study, in a statement. “Although it may be too early to say that smoking causes depression, tobacco seems to have a harmful effect on our mental health,” he added.
Combating the mental health consequences of smoking
While in Israel a legislative change has just severely restricted the advertising and marketing of tobacco products, Professor Levine wants the government to go even further and consider the mental health consequences of smoking. “I urge universities to defend the health of their students by creating a ‘Tobacco Free Campus’ that not only bans smoking on campus, but also prohibits tobacco advertising. Combined with policies to prevent, detect and treat mental health problems, including addiction, these measures would help combat the harmful effects of smoking on physical and mental health.”
This is not the first work to establish a link between mental health and tobacco consumption. In fact another study published in 2016 by King’s College London and Charles University in Prague had already shown that 66.3% of people suffering from moderate or severe depression saw their mental health improve after smoking cessation.