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Psychiatric smoke signals.

Compared with nonsmokers, cigarette smokers report a higher lifetime frequency of substance abuse, severe depression, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders involving aggressive or antisocial behavior, according to a new study.

The investigators, led by Mark Zimmerman of the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, say the association between smoking and psychiatric disorders emerged most strongly in young adults and held for both men and women.

The factors underlying these results remain unclear. The researchers speculate that individuals with certain mental disorders may be more likely engage in socially disapproved behaviors, including cigarette smoking, and some may smoke in an attempt to ease disturbing moods. In addition, they say, the link might reflect a biological predisposition to both smoking and psychiatric problems.

The team interviewed 1,057 parents and siblings of the same number of psychiatric patients and healthy controls. Inclusion of the patients' relatives increased the number of reported lifetime psychiatric disorders, since close relatives of the mentally ill run a higher-than-average risk of a variety of such disturbances. While the sample did not yield accurate population-wide prevalence rates for psychiatric disorders, it clearly illustrates an association between smoking and mental disturbances, the investigators say.

Slightly less than half the participants had smoked cigarettes daily for at least one month at some point in their lives. Nearly 54 percent of the smokers--compared with 35 percent of the nonsmokers - reported suffering a psychiatric disorder sometime during their lives. Among smokers, alcohol and drug abuse occurred three times as often and depression occurred twice as often. Although participants in their 20s and 30s smoked less than their older counterparts, young adults displayed the strongest link between smoking and psychiatric disorders, particularly alcohol and drug abuse. Among volunteers between 18 and 28 years old, 57 of 99 smokers reported abuse of or dependence on alcohol or illicit drugs, compared with 32 of 170 nonsmokers. The scientists say further studies are needed to examine whether smoking serves as a behavioral marker for substance abuse in young adults.

Prior studies revealed elevated smoking levels among hospitalized psychiatric patients. And a 1988 study showed that two-thirds of the participants in a smoking-cessation experiment had at some point experienced severe depression.
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Title Annotation:association between cigarette smoking and psychiatric disorders
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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