Over the years, researchers have found that smokers are more likely to commit suicide than those who’ve never lit up before. The hypothesized reasoning has been that individuals suffering from psychiatric disorders were more likely to be smokers, and were also more likely to commit suicide.
However, a recent study suggests that smoking in and of itself may be the culprit behind suicide risk and psychiatric disorders.
In the study, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics between 1990 and 2004.
During this time period, individual states first began adopting their own cigarette taxes and smoking policies. The team analyzed every suicide that took place during that time frame, and found that the states with the most aggressive tobacco control policies experienced a decrease in suicide levels.
At the same time, states with the lowest cigarette tax and the most lenient control policies experienced a six percent increase in suicide rate over the national average.
In fact, for each dollar increase in tax, researchers found a ten percent decrease in suicide risk. Indoor smoking bans also attributed to a decreased risk of suicide.
While former research attributed the prevalence of smoking to psychiatric disorders, this latest study attributes an increase of psychiatric disorders and a higher risk of suicide to smoking.
Researchers believe nicotine may be the culprit, and relate it to other addictive drugs. Lead author of the study, Richard A. Grucza, PhD, believes more research on the effects of nicotine on mental health needs to be performed. He notes that long term use of nicotine often leads to anxiety and depression, which increases the risk of suicide immensely.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. This preliminary research suggests that nicotine use may play an important role in suicide rates. Dr. Grucza notes that an increase in sales tax on nicotine and stricter control policies may lead to fewer psychiatric disorders, as well as decreased instances of suicide.
For long-time smokers who can’t quite kick the habit, there are plenty of reasons beyond suicide risk for quitting. Smoking is the primary cause behind one third of all heart disease and cancer-related deaths in the US. The nasty nicotine habit also accounts for 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancer cases.
While there are plenty of patches, pills and gums to help curb cravings, they often come with side effects.
And though hypnosis and meditation are often effective, exercise may just be your best bet. A recent study found that exercise effectively reduced cigarette cravings in avid smokers after a single session.
So the next time you need to take a cigarette break, lace up your sneakers and take a walk around the block instead. Your heart, lungs and emotional psyche will thank you.