Smoking associated with both anxiety and depression
A 2008 study indicates that smoking is linked to anxiety with depression, as well as to anxiety alone. However, people who are depressed but not anxious smoke the same as any other smokers. These findings came from a joint study from Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), University of Bergen and King’s College in London.
The link between smoking and anxiety/depression was most apparent among women and young people. Data were collected from 60 000 participants in "Health Studies in North-Troendelag" (HUNT), a study based in a county in northern Norway.
Figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that 30 percent of inhabitants in the western world smoke daily. Earlier studies have found that people with mental health problems are twice as likely to smoke as the rest of the population. Injuries to physical health after smoking are well documented. It is also known that smoking is linked to other psychological problems. Anxiety and depression are the most common complaints and are often both present in people who smoke.
Anxiety and depression most common among smokers
Arnstein Mykletun is the primary author of the article “Smoking in relation to anxiety and depression: Evidence from a large population survey: The HUNT study” published in European Psychiatry (see link under related articles). Mykletun is linked to the Division of Mental Health at NIPH but his main position is at the University of Bergen.
Mykletun explains that the study shows the strongest correlation with smoking when the subject is both anxious and depressed, next strongest with anxiety without depression and with a marginal correlation between smoking and depression without anxiety. There was no reduction in anxiety and depression over time after smoking was given up.
About the study
- Approximately 60 000 people in the age 20 - 89 years old who took part in HUNT were included in the study (HUNT has a total of 92 000 participants).
- All participants were screened using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).
- Smoking was defined as daily use of cigarettes, cigars or a pipe.
- 29 percent of participants said they were active smokers. A similar number said that they had quit smoking while 42 per cent had previously smoked.
- 9.6 percent had anxiety, 4.9 % had depression, while 5.9 % had both, as defined by HADS.