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Women who were sexually abused as children more likely to smoke

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Women who were sexually abused as children are much more likely to be current smokers than women who weren't abused as children. That's a key finding of a preliminary study on possible connections between sexual abuse and smoking -- a topic that has been largely overlooked in medical research.

The study is published in the February issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors.

"We found childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of smoking for women," says Colmar De Von Figueroa-Moseley, Ph.D., lead investigator in the study and director of Mayo Clinic's Office of Diversity in Clinical Research. "In our study, it was a more reliable smoking predictor than income, age or ethnicity. Understanding this connection could lead to new approaches to help girls and women avoid or stop smoking."

Study results include:

  • Women who were sexually abused as children were 3.8 times more likely to be current smokers than women who didn't report abuse. Childhood sexual abuse was defined as sexual fondling, attempted rape or rape before age 17.

  • Women who were sexually abused as children were twice as likely as those not abused to have ever smoked cigarettes.

  • Women reporting childhood sexual abuse were 2.1 times more likely than women not reporting abuse to start smoking by age 14.

Women who reported many incidents of sexual abuse as adults also were more likely to be smokers, but at a far lower risk level than women who reported even one instance of childhood abuse.

How the study was done

Researchers analyzed written surveys from 296 women, who ranged in age from 18 to 74. The study was conducted at California State University at San Bernardino, and 90 percent of the participants were college students. The respondents were racially diverse: 49.7 percent white; 24.9 percent Latino; 9.3 percent black; 8.3 percent Asian and 7.8 percent other ethn
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Contact: Shelly Plutowski
rplutowski@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
23-Feb-2004


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