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From Depressed Boys to Adult Smokers
 Mental Health Center Feature Story

From Depressed Boys to Adult Smokers
Cigarettes seem to provide a form of self-medication

From Depressed Boys to Adult Smokers(HealthDay News) -- Addiction makes it tough to stop smoking, but researchers now say that depression should be added to the list of factors that make people start smoking in the first place.

Boys who are depressed, the Finnish researchers found, are more likely to grow up to be smokers.

The study, which tracked more than 2,300 boys older than 10, reported that those who had symptoms of depression at 8 years old were 20 percent more likely than others to be smokers by age 18. The depressed boys were also 40 percent more likely to become heavy smokers.

This marked the first study to link childhood depression and adult smoking in a large sample of people, the researchers said.

The researchers also looked at hyperactivity and smoking, finding that boys who showed signs of it were up to 30 percent more likely to smoke regularly than other boys. That finding was similar to the results of a Duke University study that found children with signs of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder were more likely to smoke as young adults.

Dr. David W. Goodman, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center of Maryland, called the study findings "exciting."

"We want to identify childhood conditions that leave the child at risk for developing subsequent damaging behavior," Goodman told HealthDay. And though it's easy to assume that specific mental-health problems might lead to later substance abuse, it's important to confirm it, he said.

Now, he said, experts need to determine whether treating the depression will "reduce the risk of getting into cigarettes, alcohol and drugs"

To explain why people with depression might find solace in smoking, Goodman explained that nicotine can reduce anxiety and improve cognition a bit, potentially reducing depressive symptoms. It's a case of self-medication, he said.

But it's in everyone's best interest to figure out what drives people to smoke. According to the National Cancer Institute, tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, is the single most preventable cause of death in America.

Cigarette smoking alone is directly responsible for approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths every year in the United States. Cigarette smoking also causes chronic lung disease (emphysema and chronic bronchitis), cardiovascular disease, stroke and cataracts.

For women, smoking during pregnancy can cause stillbirth, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other serious pregnancy complications.

And the health risks caused by cigarette smoking are not limited to smokers.

Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease in nonsmokers, as well as several respiratory illnesses in young children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that exposure to secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 deaths from lung cancer among nonsmokers every year.

On the Web

To learn more about smoking and kids, check out information from the Nemours Foundation.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Solja Niemela, M.D., psychiatrist, Turku University, Finland; David W. Goodman, M.D., assistant professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and director, Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center of Maryland, Lutherville; May 25, 2006, presentation, American Psychiatric Association annual meeting, Toronto; National Cancer Institute (
Author: Anne Thompson
Publication Date: May 31, 2007
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