New York, New York - In a longitudinal study published in the November 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Jeffrey Johnson and colleagues at Columbia-Presbyterian, the New York Psychiatric Institute, and Mount Sinai Medical Center provide evidence that teen smoking may lead to anxiety disorders in late adolescence and early adulthood.
An association of teen smoking with anxiety disorders has been known for some time, but whether anxious teens are simply more likely to become hooked on cigarettes or smoking itself increases the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder has been unclear. "Some previous studies have suggested that anxious individuals may be more likely than others to begin smoking," Dr. Johnson, assistant professor of clinical psychology, explains, "Our findings clearly indicated that anxiety disorders during adolescence were not associated with increased risk for initiation of cigarette smoking during early adulthood."
The study has important implications for young people. In keeping with previous findings, Dr. Johnson observes: "Teens who smoke a pack of cigarettes per day or more are likely to experience difficulty quitting smoking. Many youths who smoke heavily as teen-agers continue to smoke well into adulthood." And, Dr. Johnson points out, "It appears that individuals who continue to smoke heavily during adulthood remain at high risk for onset of certain types of anxiety disorders." Therefore, preventing teens from getting hooked on cigarettes can promote mental as well as physical health into adulthood.
Many teens begin smoking to identify with an image of smokers as "cool," well-adjusted, and popular. Because of this tendency, replacing this attractive image with a portrayal of smokers as overly prone to panic attacks, anxiety, or agoraphobia might change teens' minds about taking up the habit. In their paper, Dr. Johnson and colleagues suggest that letting teens know about this risk "may incr
Contact: Carolyn Conway-Hoare
Columbia University Medical Center