Smoking is the largest single contributor to the average 10-20 year reduction in life expectancy among people with mental health conditions…

A new study in Psychological Medicine and led by University of Bristol researchers has found that tobacco smoking may increase your risk of developing depression and schizophrenia.

Dr Robyn Wootton, Senior Research Associate in the School of Psychological Science and the study’s lead author, said: “Individuals with mental illness are often overlooked in our efforts to reduce smoking prevalence, leading to health inequalities. Our work shows that we should be making every effort to prevent smoking initiation and encourage smoking cessation because of the consequences to mental health as well as physical health.”

The team applied an analytic approach called Mendelian randomisation, which uses genetic variants associated with an exposure (e.g. smoking) to support stronger conclusions about cause-and-effect relationships. They found evidence that tobacco smoking increased risk of depression and schizophrenia, but also that depression and schizophrenia increase the likelihood of smoking (although the evidence was weaker in this direction for schizophrenia).

Smoking reduces the chemical releases of serotonin and dopamine, increasing people’s risk for schizophrenia. It may also increase the risk of developing depression. Dopamine regulates emotions. Serotonin is known as the ‘feel good’ hormone which contributes towards general wellbeing.

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Tobacco toxicity has been linked to lung cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes in the past, and this evidence proves that it also affects smokers’ mental health.

Cigarette smoking is responsible for over 480 000 deaths in the US every year.  An additional 41 000 deaths are linked to second-hand smoke exposure.

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