Cigarettes Linked to Smokers’ Increased Risk of Developing Depression: Study


Jan 20, 2020


It’s common knowledge that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer and lead to severe, chronic breathing problems in smokers. Smoking, however, has also been linked to mental health problems, such as two to three times higher rates of clinical depression in smokers than in non-smokers, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE

Out of 2,000 students surveyed at various Serbian universities, researchers found 14% of smokers suffered from depression as opposed to only 4% of non-smokers at the University of Pristina; at the University of Belgrade, the ratio was 19% of smokers with depression as opposed to 11% of non-smokers. Researchers also found smokers had higher rates of symptoms of depression and lower rates of social functioning, as compared to non-smokers.

The researchers have only established a correlation so far, not causation. “While it may be too early to say that smoking causes depression, tobacco does appear to have an adverse effect on our mental health,” study author and professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s-Hadasssah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Hagai Levine, said in a statement

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Another study out of University of Bristol and published in Psychological Medicine, shows tobacco can increase a smokers’ risk of developing depression and schizophrenia. Cigarette use is more common in people with mental health issues, researchers stated, but it’s often unclear whether mental illness increases propensity to smoke or smoking causes likelihood of developing mental illness. 

Researchers found: both. “Tobacco smoking increased risk of depression and schizophrenia, but also that depression and schizophrenia increase the likelihood of smoking (although the evidence was weaker in this direction for schizophrenia),” the statement reads, adding the same group of researchers also established in an earlier study that smoking can increase risk of developing bipolar disorder. 

Stopping smoking has also been proven to improve mental health, according to U.K.’s National Health Service — it decreases anxiety and stress levels, and improves mood. 

“Individuals with mental illness are often overlooked in our efforts to reduce smoking prevalence, leading to health inequalities,” the Bristol study’s lead author and senior research associate in the School of Experimental Psychology, Dr. Robyn Wootton, said in a statement. “Our work shows that we should be making every effort to prevent smoking initiation and encourage smoking cessation because of the consequences to mental health as well as physical health.”


Written By Rajvi Desai

Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle’s Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news and politics in New York City, and dabbled in design and entertainment journalism. Back in the homeland, she’s interested in tackling beauty, sports, politics and human rights in her gender-focused writing, while also co-managing The Swaddle Team’s podcast, Respectfully Disagree.


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