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Nicotine Tob Res. 2012 Oct;14(10):1161-9. Epub 2012 Feb 24.

Psychosocial stressors and cigarette smoking among African American adults in midlife.

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Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 50 Church Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.



Psychosocial stress is a significant risk factor for smoking, and Blacks experience higher levels of psychosocial stress relative to other racial/ethnic groups. Limited research has comprehensively examined psychosocial stressors in relation to smoking among Blacks.


We examined psychosocial stressors in relation to smoking status (current, previous, and never) in middle-aged Blacks (34-85 years, n = 592) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a subset of the Midlife in the United States Study II (2004-2006). Eleven stressor domains were assessed, including psychological and physical work stress, work-family conflict, perceived inequality, relationship stress, neighborhood stress, discrimination, financial stress, recent problems, stressful events, and childhood adversity. We also calculated a cumulative score. Multinomial models were adjusted for age, gender, education, and income.


Seven of the 11 stressors and the cumulative score were associated with higher odds of being a current smoker compared with a never-smoker: neighborhood, financial, relationship, and psychological work stress, perceived inequality, stressful events, childhood adversity (p values <.05; ORs ranged from 1.28 to 1.77). Three stressors and the cumulative score were associated with higher odds of being a previous smoker versus a never-smoker (p < .05). Individuals who scored in the top quartile on 5 or more stressors were 3.74 (95% CI = 2.09-6.71) times as likely to be current smokers, and more than twice as likely to be previous smokers, compared with individuals with no high stressors.


These results demonstrate a strong relationship between stress and smoking among urban middle-aged Blacks and suggest that cessation programs should address modifiable individual and community-level stressors.

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