Depression more prevalent in smoking teens, says study

EVEN though by law cigarettes are not for sale to under 18’s, a recent study has shown that teenagers who smoke suffer a great risk of depression.

The research was conducted over a period of seven years by UKZN Public Health academic, Dr Andrew Tomita who was also the lead author of a study titled: Evidence on the Association Between Cigarette Smoking and Incident Depression from the South African National Income Dynamics Study 2008–2015: Mental Health Implications for a Resource-Limited Setting.

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The study was based on an analysis of data from the South African National Income Dynamics Study; a nationally representative sample of households at follow-up periods between the years 2008-2015. The cohort consisted of 14 118 adult participants who at baseline were depression free.

The researchers found that depression was significant in older adolescents (ages 15–19). This was observed in both men and women especially as adolescents are often developmentally vulnerable and disadvantaged socio-economically. Recent studies investigating the association of smoking, and later depression, confirmed this finding.

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According to Tomita and his co-author Dr Jennifer Manuel of New York University, although the underlying mechanisms are unclear, the hypothesis is based on the premise that prolonged nicotine alters the neurochemicals in the regulatory systems which may in turn make it difficult to regulate stress or emotions.

Tomita is a senior lecturer in UKZN’s School of Nursing and Public Health and a research associate at the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP). A United States citizen, his research interests includes studies of Critical Time Intervention (CTI) and investigating ways to improve the lives of individuals living with serious mental illness in the United States and South Africa.

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