News: Butt out! Secondhand smoke linked to psychiatric distress

Attention smokers: it’s officially time to butt out. If not for your own health, for the mental health of those


Attention smokers: it’s officially time to butt out. If not for your own health, for the mental health of those around you. Exposure to secondhand smoke has been linked to psychological distress in healthy adults, according to a new report in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Dr. Mark Harmer of University College London, along with a team of researchers, studied 5,560 non-smokers and 2,595 smokers’with no previous history of mental illness’whom they selected from the 1998 and 2003 Scottish Health Survey. The non-smokers were tested for secondhand smoke exposure by monitoring the levels of smoking-related chemicals in their saliva. Researchers also monitored how many participants were admitted to psychiatric hospitals over a period of six years.

The researchers found that 14.5% of the participants were suffering from psychological distress, and that greater exposure to secondhand smoke increased the risk of distress for non-smokers. They also concluded that smokers, as well as non-smokers who had been exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke, were at a greater risk for admission to a psychiatric hospital.

It wasn’t that long ago that you could find people smoking in bars, restaurants and on patios all over town. And although "smoking sections" are essentially extinct these days, it hasn’t stopped people from lighting up. But if ever there was a reason to butt out’you know, apart from cancer and heart disease‘the fact that you’re putting other people’s mental health at risk seems like a pretty good one.

"Although smoke-free legislation currently exists in a number of countries such as the United States and Britain, such policies have not been introduced on a worldwide scale and it is therefore crucial to accumulate knowledge about the disease burden associated with SHS [secondhand smoke]," the study’s authors wrote. “In addition, SHS exposure at home is growing in relative importance as restrictions on smoking in workplaces and public places spread.”

Are you, or is someone you know, trying to quit smoking? Do you think this study will provide more of a reason to butt out?

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