Smoking can affect a person's mental health. The head of the department of endocrinological psychiatry at the Research Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology named after V. M. Bekhtereva Galina Mazo. According to her, modern studies show that the risk of mental abnormalities in smokers is 1, 9-2, 3 times higher than that of nonsmokers. The risk of such disorders depends on the age. For example, those who started smoking before the age of 13 have a higher risk of developing mental illness in the future compared to those who smoke after 14. However, Mazo notes, “bidirectional connections” can also work here: clinically pronounced symptoms of mental illness, such as fear, anxiety, nervous tension, in turn, lead to the use of tobacco.
Recent studies have shown that people with mental illness smoke more often, start smoking at an earlier age, have more pronounced nicotine addiction and, in their case, tobacco use leads to more severe health consequences. Also, despite widespread public campaigns against smoking, it is most difficult to reduce the consumption of tobacco products in this category of the population. The head of the department of endocrinological psychiatry at the Research Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology named after V. M. Bekhtereva Galina Mazo.
All this gave scientists reason to believe that nicotine plays a role in the development of mental illness.
"Modern research shows that the risk of mental illness in smokers is 1, 9-2, 3 times higher than in the nonsmoking population," - said Mazo.
She explained that we are talking about a wide range of mental disorders, including diseases of the affective (depression, bipolar disorder) and schizophrenic (schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder) spectrum.
However, as noted by Galina Mazo, "depending on mental disorders and smoking, we are talking about bidirectional communications."
“It is known that smoking is more common in the schizophrenic population than in the general population. But it cannot be ruled out that clinically expressed symptoms of mental illness, such as fear, anxiety, nervous tension, in turn, lead to the use of tobacco,”the specialist explained.
At the same time, many smokers are sure that a cigarette calms, gives an opportunity to concentrate and relieves stress, and smoking is almost a method of self-medication.
According to Galina Mazo, to a certain extent, all this may take place, but only in the early stages of smoking. Over time, the hypothetical positive impact is lost. Increased smoking intensity also has a negative effect. Experienced smokers may have cognitive decline and mood deterioration. At the same time, as recent studies have shown, after smoking cessation, anxiety and stress, on the contrary, noticeably decrease.
“It can be assumed that this is a vicious circle: if at the initial stages smoking brings relief, then later certain biological mechanisms are switched on, which lead to a deterioration in both mental and somatic state,” Galina Mazo explained the nature of this phenomenon.
Studies have shown that exposure to nicotine during pregnancy increases the chances of developing mental illness in the offspring, Galina Mazo said.
“This means that smoking can affect the development of the fetal brain, making it more vulnerable to mental disorders,” she said.
The age at which a person becomes addicted to a bad habit also matters. The earlier a person starts smoking, the higher the risk of developing mental pathology, Mazo explained.
“According to a prospective study, adolescents who smoked more than ten cigarettes a day had a higher risk of developing mental illness compared to non-smoking peers. In addition, those who started smoking before the age of 13 have a higher risk of developing mental illness in the future compared to those who started smoking every day after the age of 14,”notes V. M. Ankylosing spondylitis.
Middle-aged and elderly people are no less vulnerable - in their case, nicotine contributes to the development of cognitive impairments.
Smoking has an impact on the body and at the genetic level, scientists say. It affects the rate of change in the length of telomeres (the end sections of chromosomes, consisting of a certain combination of nucleotides and protecting the DNA molecule from damage). The shortening of telomeres, which are considered the biological clock of a person, to a certain value leads to cell aging.