Major Depressive Disorder

Young Smokers More Likely to Suffer Depression

The Medical Post, April 9, 1996

WASHINGTON - The prevention and reduction of cigarette smoking by adolescents could be an important intervention against depression, according to a National Research Council survey.

Using data from the Teenage Attitudes and Practices Survey, a National Research Council telephone query of almost 8,000 teenagers throughout the U.S., investigators from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and San Diego State University showed that current youthful smokers were twice as likely to develop depressive symptoms as never smokers.

The study, presented here at the International Congress of Behavioral Medicine, focused on 6,863 adolescents (aged 12 to 18 in 1989) who did not report notable depressive symptoms in their initial interview. However, by the 1993 follow-up, 11.5% had developed notable depressive symptomatology.

"There were marked gender differences," said study co-author Dr. Christi Patten (PhD), of UCSD. "About 15.3% of the girls developed notable depressive symptoms as contrasted to 8.1% of the boys."

Smoking status among all participants was measured using consumption of at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and having smoked in the last 30 days.

The adolescents were given a six-question survey for depression which had been previously validated. It asked:

Respondents were given four responses ranging from "never" to "often." Individual responses were summed up, adjusted and given scores from a baseline of 16 to high of 34. The cutoff score for a person with depression was 29.

"Gender differences were consistent across all age groups," said Dr. Patten. "Smoking status was the most significant predictor of developing notable depressive symptoms.

Significant predictors of depressive symptomatology also included girls who experimented with cigarettes, rebellious behavior characteristics and a perceived lack of parental social support

"For boys, participation in organized sports predicted significantly lower risk of depressive symptoms."

The study did not address the mechanisms by which smoking might lead to depressive symptoms, i.e., does smoking cause depression, or is smoking a consequence of depression.

Copyright 1996 Maclean Hunter Publishing Limited
Reprinted with permission.

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