Based on a Finnish study, persistent smokers may have higher risk to become depressed in comparison to never smokers. Also those smokers who quit have an elevated risk of depressive symptoms in short run. However, in long run this risk declines to the level of never smokers. In other words, both completely smoke-free life style and successful smoking cessation in long run seem to protect from depressive symptoms.
It is known that depression is associated with cigarette smoking, but the nature of this association is discussed under various hypotheses. First, according to the so called self-medication hypothesis, those who suffer from depressive symptoms smoke cigarettes in order to alleviate their symptoms. According to the second assumption, chronic persistent smoking may have a role in the etiology of depression. The third hypothesis suggests that there is a reciprocal mechanism between smoking and depression. The fourth hypothesis says that there are shared underlying genetic factors explaining this co-morbidity.
This study conducted in the Department of Public Health at the University of Helsinki explored, which of those assumptions would be supported by the data, when smoking behavior and changes in it is considered as a predictor of depressive symptoms. The researchers had access to the data collected within the Finnish Adult Twin Cohort Project. There were about four thousand male and five thousand female twins, whose health and health behavior were followed-up through 15 years.
Data on smoking behavior and changes in it between 1975 and 1981 were analyzed as a predictor of depressive symptoms measured in 1990. The analyses were adjusted for other factors known to predict depression. Because the data consisted of twins it was possible to test the causality between smoking and depression by using twin pairs discordant for depression, where the twin without depression served as a matched control for his/her co-twin with depres
Contact: Tellervo Korhonen
University of Helsinki