A new investigated published in the journal Addication investigated the association between smoking and depression and found that the risk of the disorder is higher in smokers in comparison with non-smokers.
Previously, studies have already shown depression is more common in people who smoke than others. However, the reason for this has now been yet discovered.
Now, the new research, which was conducted by collaborative teams from the Universities of Wisconsin and Missouri with University of Helsinki, goes further and looks at smoking dependence as a contributor to depressive disorder.
For the research, around one thousand and four hundred Finnish twins were recruited. All of these participants were smoking and had varying levels of dependence.
To know more about the impact of depression on smoking habits, the participants were asked to fill questionnaire based on their motives for smoking and potential triggers.
After analyzing the data collected via the questionnaires, the researchers found that higher dependence was linked to increased likelihood of having depressive episodes. Among the participants who were more dependent on smoking, emotional distress was a big contributing factor.
The leading author of the study, Maarit Piirtola from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland at the University of Helsinki, explains these findings show that such participants do not smoke because of the reward systems associated with tobacco use.
Instead, they are smoking due to high levels of stress and mood swings which are accelerated by depressive episodes. Precisely, depression is primary trigger in smoking dependence.
In these results, other possible contributing facotrs such as genetic disposition and familial influence can also be ruled out because of the inclusion of twins. However, one issue with the structure of the study was that it was more of a cross-sectional investigation.
The research director, Jaakko Kaprio, who is also a professor at University of Helsinki, says since it was a cross-sectional anaylsis, it is unclear whether smoking dependence leads to depression or depression leads to smoking dependence.
According to Tellervo Korhonen, who was one of the leading researchers, knowing the main cause of depression or smoking is fundamental either way.
By finding the causes, it is easier to break the cycle of depressive episodes leading to smoking dependence or vice versa. As a result, people can control their smoking habits or quit entirely along with better management of their mental disorders.
Since the past year, the primary trigger for emotional distress or increase in smoking dependence is financial insecurity. As many people have lost their source of income and have lost their loved ones, the number of mental health disorders have increased.
To avoid further mental health complications and to keep people from resorting to smoking or the use of other drugs, better access to resources and professional help are needed.
For people who are struggling with depression, anxiety, or other issues and are finding it hard to resist smoking or other harmful coping mechanisms, getting medical attention on time is important.