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Secondhand Smoke Tied to Mental Illness

Thursday, 10 June 2010 08:10 AM

In addition to wrecking your lungs and raising your chance of a heart attack, secondhand smoke is now linked with mental illness. A study reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that the majority of Americans are exposed to some form of secondhand smoke that increases the risks of psychological distress and psychiatric hospitalization among healthy adults.

“A growing body of literature has demonstrated the harmful physical health effects of secondhand smoke exposure,” the authors wrote. “Given the highly prevalent exposure to secondhand smoke — in the United States, an estimated 60 percent of American nonsmokers had biological evidence of exposure to secondhand smoke — even a low level of risk may have a major public health impact.”

Mark Hamer, Ph.D., of University College London, and colleagues studied 5,560 nonsmoking adults (average age 49.8) and 2,595 smokers (average age 44.8) who did not have a history of mental illness. At the beginning of the study, participants filled out a questionnaire about physiological distress and admissions to psychiatric hospitals. Exposure to secondhand smoke in nonsmokers was measured by assessing saliva levels of cotinine, a chemical formed when nicotine is broken down by the body. Participants were then followed for six years.

A total of 14.5 percent of all participants reported psychological distress, and nonsmokers who were exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke were more likely to report problems when compared with those who didn't have cotinine in their blood. Both smokers and nonsmokers with high levels of cotinine were more likely than nonsmokers to be hospitalized for depression, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric conditions.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a prospective association between objectively assessed secondhand smoke exposure and mental health in a representative sample of a general population,” the authors said.

According to the American Cancer Society, 46,000 deaths each year are due to heart disease in nonsmokers who live with smokers. Tobacco smoke contains more than 60 chemical compounds known to cause cancer, and there are about 3,400 cases of lung cancer in nonsmoking adults. Experts estimate that between 70 and 90 percent of nonsmokers in the United States are exposed to secondhand smoke.

© HealthDay

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In addition to wrecking your lungs, secondhand smoke is now linked with mental illness.
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Thursday, 10 June 2010 08:10 AM
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