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Secondhand Smoking Causes Major Depression


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Non-smokers who are being exposed to cigarette smoke, not only experience its harm physically, but are twice more likely to suffer from major depression, compared to people who are not exposed to black clouds, a large federal study reports.

The study from the University of Miami appears to be the first U.S research to link secondhand smoke to mood and depression. The previous study that was conducted in Japan came up with the same results and similar conclusion. Researchers say that the risk for depression also doubled for individuals who work in places that only allow smoking in public areas.

The new study confirmed exposure to smoke by looking at cotinine levels in the blood of 3,000 adults who did not smoke themselves. Cotinine is a chemical that appears in the blood after inhaling in smoke. An additional more than 90,000 non-smokers only had to report if they lived with or worked around people who smoked. Every participant was also asked to fill out questionnaires and describe their symptoms of depression.

The results of the blood test revealed that individuals in both groups who have been exposed to cigarette smoke on a daily basis, were far more likely to develop symptoms of severe depression. It was found that even people who have been working in public places, where smoking was not prohibited, were twice more likely to suffer from the condition. According to Frank Bandiera, a public health researcher at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and a lead author of the study, there is no doubt that smokers are exposed to an increased risk of depression in comparison with non-smokers, but the question remains whether the smoking comes first or the depression.

Previous research involving humans and animals showed that there is more dopamine it the brains of human beings, which, in turn leads to anxiety and stress. Therefore, it is quite possible that passive smoking effects non-smokers in the same way. It has also been established that secondhand smoke increases the risk for heart-related conditions and lung cancer.

Another new study by the University of Cambridge, published last month in the British Medical Journal, found that adults over the age of 50 who find themselves around smoking people on a regular basis, face a 44 per cent risk of cognitive impairments, such as dementia and problems with memory.

Nearly 4 out of every 10 adults in the United States are covered now by state or local laws against smoking in workplaces, bars, restaurants and other public places, and seven out of 10 are protected at least in one of these arenas, according to Patrick Reynolds, president of the Foundation for a Smokefree America, an advocacy group. Concerns about health effects of smoking are being accelerated with an enormous speed, he added, saying that "there has been a tidal wave of state laws against smoking in bars and restaurants just in the last six years." Twenty-four states categorically forbid smoking in public places, and twenty two have passed their laws since 2003.

In general, inhaling cigarette smoke, whether actively or passively, does not appear like a good idea when people are concerned about their health. The best individuals could do in this case is to control their personal environment by limiting the exposure to secondhand smoke. There are always good chances to live a longer and better life, and reduce the risk of developing stress, anxiety or depression.

The report was presented at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Chicago and was published last month in the British Medical Journal.

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