Research Shows Secondhand Smoke Can Cause Mental Distress

New evidence suggests that nonsmokers who inhale high levels of secondhand smoke may experience psychological distress, this is according epidemiologist Mark Hamer of the University College London and his colleagues.

Their findings show that as based on animal studies, nicotine administered in large enough doses can induce sadness and other negative moods.

Previous research suggests that nicotine alters mood by disrupting immune responses, stress-hormone regulation and the transmission of dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain. But little is known about nicotine’s possible relationship to specific psychiatric disorders.

A related study, published in the January Psychosomatic Medicine, found an increased risk for depression symptoms among nonsmokers exposed to modest or greater levels of secondhand smoke. A team led by epidemiologist David J. Lee of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine examined data from a 2005–2006 survey of nearly 3,000 U.S. adults.

Given widespread exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke, further research on its relation to mental health is warranted, Hamer asserts. A 2006 federal report estimated that 60 percent of nonsmokers in the United States display biological signs of having ingested at least low levels of nicotine via cigarette smoke.

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