Mental Problems Associated with Second Hand Smoke

We’ve long been writing about the various adverse health events associated with <"">second-hand cigarette smoke. Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 substances, including in excess of 50 that are known or suspected carcinogens and is linked to many diseases in adults and children, such as sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, asthma, coronary heart disease, and lung and sinus cancers. Some 126 million nonsmokers—60 percent of all U.S. non-smokers—are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Now, USNews is reporting that second hand smoke is also linked to some psychological problems and that these risks increase with increased exposure, citing an emerging study. It seems that people who smoke tend to be diagnosed with more psychological problems versus nonsmokers; however, new evidence points to the same psychological distress occurring in nonsmokers who inhale large amounts of secondhand smoke, said Mark Hamer of University College London and colleagues, reported USNews.

The team studied 5,560 nonsmokers and 2,595 smokers in their mid- to late-40s and who came from what USNews said was a “nationally representative sample in Scotland … surveyed in 1998 and 2003 about a variety of health issues.” The volunteer participants completed a 12-item questionnaire that calculated psychological anguish with questions related to sleep, happiness, depression, and anxiety for the one month prior, said USNews.

These findings support the prevailing theory—based largely on animal studies—that sufficient amounts of nicotine can cause sadness and negative feelings, said USNews, citing the study which appears in the August issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. “Our data are preliminary, but there is a strong possibility that the observed association reflects a causal link,” Hamer said, quoted USNews.

Prior studies revealed that by interfering with immune responses, nicotine can alter moods and works to interrupt “stress-hormone regulation and the transmission of dopamine, wrote USNews, which explained that dopamine is a so-called “chemical messenger” in the brain. USNews pointed out that, based on a 2006 federal report, an astounding 60 percent of nonsmokers in the US show physical signs of taking in at least low levels of nicotine via cigarette smoke.

Another study published in January’s Psychosomatic Medicine, saw increased depression risks in nonsmokers exposed to what the study described as “modest or greater levels of secondhand smoke,” said USNews. That team was led by epidemiologist David J. Lee, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; the team looked at information from a 2005–2006 survey of some 3,000 U.S. adults.

Saliva and cotine levels were reviewed for the current study, said USNews. Also, in 1998, psychological distress was found to have impacted nine percent of nonsmokers exposed to low secondhand smoke levels, 11 percent at moderate levels, and 14 percent at frequent levels; 20 percent of smokers experienced psychological distress. In follow-up over a nearly six-year average, 41 people were admitted to psychiatric hospitals, said USNews.

We previously wrote that secondhand smoke has also been linked to chronic rhinosinusitis and that a prior study found that women routinely around smokers may face greater challenges when trying to conceive. Reuters Health said prior that while previous studies indicate female smokers increase their risks of pregnancy complications, miscarriage and infant health problems, this latest study, which involved over 4,800 women, is showing other risks. And, another study on which we wrote found that exposure to secondhand smoke puts women at a significantly higher risk for the development of peripheral artery disease (PAD), finding that women exposed to second-hand smoke either at home or in the workplace had a 67 percent increased risk of PAD compared to those with no exposure.

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