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Smoking is linked to mental health, research reveals

Researchers have found that smoking not only causes physical damage, but is also detrimental to mental health.

According to the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the research team from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of Belgrade and University of Pristina together, surveyed more than 2,000 students enrolled at Serbian universities with differing socio-political and economic environments.

They found that students who smoked had rates of clinical depression that were twice to three times higher than did their non-smoking peers.

“Our study adds to the growing body of evidence that smoking and depression are closely linked,” while it may be too early to say that smoking causes depression, tobacco does appear to have an adverse effect on our mental health,” said study lead author Hagai Levine at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

According to the researchers, specifically, at the University of Pristina, 14 per cent of smokers suffered from depression as opposed to four per cent of their non-smoking peers, and at Belgrade University the numbers were 19 per cent to 11 per cent, respectively.

Further, no matter what their economic or socio-political backgrounds, students who smoked also had higher rates of depressive symptoms and lower mental health scores (such as, vitality and social functioning) compared to non-smoking students.

In light of the new findings, the researchers said they would like to see policymakers take into account mental health effects of smoking, as well.

“I urge universities to advocate for their students’ health by creating ‘Smoke-Free Campuses’ that not only ban smoking on campus but tobacco advertising, too,” Levine said.

“Combined with policies that prevent, screen and treat mental health problems, including addiction, these steps would go a long way towards combating the harmful effects that smoking has on our physical and mental states,” Levine added.

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