Younger people who smoke are more likely to have a psychiatric or substance use disorder compared with those who began smoking in earlier decades, according to research.
The study revealed that as overall rates of smoking decreased, beginning in the 1960s, the proportion of smokers who are nicotine-dependent increased. The study also found that the likelihood of having a substance use disorder increased among all smokers with each decade, regardless of their dependence on nicotine. Nicotine-dependent smokers who began lighting up in the 1980s were also more likely than older smokers to have a psychiatric condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, or antisocial personality disorder.
“Our study confirms that recent smokers, though a relatively smaller group than those who started smoking decades ago, are more vulnerable to psychiatric and substance use disorders,” said lead author Ardesheer Talati, PhD, assistant professor of clinical neurobiology (in Psychiatry) at CUMC and NYSPI and a co-author of the study. “These findings suggest that today’s adolescent and young adult smokers may benefit from mental health screening so that any related psychiatric or substance use problems can be identified and addressed early.”
Smoking rates steadily increased during the first half of the 20th century. Beginning in the 1960s, growing recognition of the health risks associated with smoking led to a gradual decline in smoking rates, from nearly half of the US population in the 1950s to fewer than 20 percent today.
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) speculated that as smoking became increasingly stigmatized, the relative few who began smoking in later decades may be more susceptible to psychiatric and substance use disorders.