Smoking tobacco increases the risk of depression by up to 132%

Smoking tobacco increases the risk of depression by up to 132%
© iStock/Dusan Ilic

New research by the University of Bristol has revealed that smoking tobacco significantly increases the risk of developing depression and schizophrenia.

Staggering data indicates that smoking tobacco increases the risk of developing depression by between 54% to 132% and schizophrenia by 53% and 127%. More research is necessary to discover why this happens and whether smoking tobacco affects the prevalence of other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and bipolar disorder.

Smoking is a leading cause of death and illness in the UK, and many individuals live with smoking-related health conditions. Smoking tobacco can cause diseases, such as cancer, strokes, and pneumonia. Additionally, the new findings presented by Bristol researchers illuminate the concerning impact on mental health.

The analysis, presented at the Royal College of Psychiatrists International Congress, has been shared with the UK Government whilst they develop a new Tobacco Control Plan for publication later this year.

The link between smoking tobacco and increasing mental health rates

New data on the number of smokers with mental health conditions have been distributed to the Congress, revealing that out of England’s six million smokers, it is estimated that:

  • 230k smokers also suffer from a severe mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), and;
  • 6 million suffer from depression and anxiety.

One of the authors of the new report Professor Marcus Munafo Professor of Biological Psychology at the University of Bristol, said: “There is no longer any doubt that smoking is bad for mental health and this needs to be a priority in the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan. Those working with people with mental health conditions need to understand and address the vicious cycle of bidirectional effects, whereby having symptoms of mental illness causes individuals to smoke more and to be more likely to become addicted.

“At the same time, smoking also increases the risk of subsequent mental illness and exacerbates mental health symptoms. Lower rates of smoking will improve overall levels of good mental health as well as physical health.”

Smokefree 2030 initiative

The figures from the University of Bristol highlight the necessity of the government to deliver its Smokefree 2030 ambition and amplifies the recommendations made by the Khan review for the Tobacco Control Plan. The independent review, conducted by Javed Khan, was commissioned by the Secretary of State to identify effective interventions to reduce the number of individuals smoking tobacco. One of Khan’s 15 recommendations was that action is needed to tackle the issue of smoking and mental health.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “Smoking addiction is not a trivial matter; it causes serious harm to both body and mind. Smokers with mental health conditions can quit with the right support from healthcare professionals. It’s our duty as psychiatrists to offer them the help they need to succeed.”



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