Loneliness Has Direct Link With Smoking: Study

There were some studies that suggested that lonely people in all likelihood switch to smoking.


Researchers have established a direct link between the prolonged experience of loneliness and smoking. The research was conducted by the University of Bristol and was published in the journal Addiction. A novel research method – Mendelian randomisation – which uses genetic and surveys data from hundreds of thousands of people were used in the study. The researchers found that loneliness could likely increase behaviour of smoking.

“This method has never been applied to this question before and so the results are novel, but also tentative. We found evidence to suggest that loneliness leads to increased smoking, with people more likely to start smoking, to smoke more cigarettes, and to be less likely to quit,” said co-lead author, Dr Robyn Wootton.

There were some studies that suggested that lonely people in all likelihood switch to smoking. Loneliness also increased the chance of quitting smoking.

The study shows similar trends observed during the COVID-19 pandemic according to which there are around 2.2. million people across the United Kingdom who started smoking more during the lockdown period that ever before. There was some proof that smoking increased individuals’ loneliness.

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“Our finding that smoking may also lead to more loneliness is tentative, but it is in line with other recent studies that identified smoking as a risk factor for poor mental health. A potential mechanism for this relationship is that nicotine from cigarette smoke interferes with neurotransmitters such as dopamine in the brain,” said senior author Dr Jorien Treur.

“If lonely people are more likely to start smoking and find it harder to quit, they are more likely to suffer the harm caused by smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable premature death, with thirty times as many people who die suffering serious smoking-related illnesses such as cancer, heart, and respiratory disease. This research highlights the need for smokers suffering from loneliness to be given support to stop, to improve not just their health and wellbeing but also to help reduce their loneliness,” commented Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action of Smoking & Health (ASH).

The team of researchers also investigated the relationship between loneliness and alcohol use and abuse and found no clear evidence for a causal relationship there.

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