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Am J Public Health. 1996 Feb;86(2):225-30.

Is smoking associated with depression and anxiety in teenagers?

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Australia.



An association of smoking with depression and anxiety has been documented in adult smokers. This study examines this association in a representative group of teenage smokers.


A two-stage cluster sample of secondary school students in Victoria, Australia, were surveyed by using a computerized questionnaire, which included a 7-day retrospective diary for tobacco use and a structured psychiatric interview.


Subjects reporting high levels of depression and anxiety were twice as likely to be smokers after the potential confounders of year level, sex, alcohol use, and parental smoking were controlled for. Regular smokers were almost twice as likely as occasional smokers to report high levels of depression and anxiety. In a stratified analysis, an association between regular smoking and psychiatric morbidity was found in girls of all ages but for boys only in the youngest group.


The cross-sectional association is consistent with the use of smoking by teenage girls as self-medication for depression and anxiety. Therefore, future health promotional campaigns might consider strategies that attend to perceived psychological benefits of smoking.

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