Smoking is widely known to damage the body but new Australian research suggests the addictive habit could be taking a toll on the mind too.
A study of more than a thousand women has found that females who smoke are more likely to develop major depression.
Heavy smokers – those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day – have almost double the risk of developing diagnosable depression than non smokers.
It has long been known that people with depression are more likely to smoke, but this longterm study is one of the first to suggest the habit may be triggering mental illness.
University of Melbourne researchers tracked healthy women for more than a decade, giving them a psychiatric assessment at the end.
“It was at this point we were able to determine if depression had developed and investigate whether or not smoking pre-dated the onset of depression,” said study leader Professor Julie Pasco.
Another study of 671 healthy women revealed 15 per cent of smokers went on to develop depression, compared to 6.5 per cent of non smokers.
“This shows us that non smokers were at lower risk for developing major depressive disorder, suggesting that smoking may play a role in the development of the disease in women,” Prof Pasco said. The findings gave grounds for greater efforts to encourage smokers to quit, she said.Anne Jones, chief executive of anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health, said the results were proof the effects of smoking extended beyond physical ills like cancer and heart disease.
“This is a very serious finding and yet another good reason to renew efforts to get Australians to give it up.
“We’ve got a blow-out in mental illness in Australia and here we’ve got a cause of mental illness that is being sold in every petrol station and corner store in the country,” Ms Jones said.
Australia’s smoking statistics are dropping but women are quitting at a slower rate than men.
“Mass media campaigns have not been effective at getting the message through to women that quitting is the best thing they can do for their health,” Ms Jones said.
Source: The Age