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Second Hand Smoke Exposure can Fuel Mental Illness

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Scientists say second hand smoke can fuel mental illness in addition to other harmful effects. Findings from scientists now show that second hand smoke, or passive smoking, causes mental harm that may be related to risk of future psychiatric illness and emotional distress. Passive smoking is known to contribute physical ailments.The findings may be the first to suggest a link between psychological distress and second hand smoke exposure.

Exposure to second hand smoke and mental illness was examined by researchers by measuring levels of cotinine in the saliva of 5,560 non-smoking adults and 2,689 smokers. Cotinine is a metabolic by-product of nicotine.

The findings showed that 14 percent of individuals sampled from 1998 and 2003 Scottish Health Surveys had a fifty percent increased likelihood of mental distress among active smokers and from passive smoking, compared to participants with lower levels (between 0.70 and 15 micrograms per liter ) of the nicotine by product cotinine.

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Dr Mark Hamer, UCL Epidemiology & Public Health, said second hand smoke (SHS) "exposure at home is growing in relative importance as restrictions on smoking in workplaces and public places spread. A growing body of literature has demonstrated the harmful physical effects of second hand smoke exposure, but there has been limited research about the effects on mental health."

The study authors estimate that more than 60 percent of Americans who don't smoke had been exposed to nicotine through passive smoking, pointing out the significant negative impact on health.

The authors concluded there is a "robust dose-response association between objectively assessed nicotine exposure and psychological distress, which was apparent at low levels of SHS exposure and was strongest in current smokers:

Studies in animals have found a possible link between negative emotions and passive smoking and some human studies also show second hand smoke might fuel mental illness and psychological distress. The researchers say their findings are important for reducing second hand smoke exposure in the general population - something that could promote both physical and mental health.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(8):(doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.76)