Lonely Kids Becoming Smokers

Smoking rates are more than three times higher in adults who were not popular

(RxWiki News) Picking up smoking in adolescence can happen for any number of reasons. But turning into a heavy smoker and staying that way into your 30s, may be the result of low social status.

A recent study rated social status of Swedish teenagers based on peer rankings, then followed up 19 years later about their smoking status.

The study’s findings linked heavy smoking with low peer ranking.

"Talk to your kids about smoking."

Yiva B. Almquist, PhD, from the Centre for Health Equity Studies at Stockholm University in Sweden, led the research into social status and smoking rates. For the study, 2,329 Swedish natives were interviewed at the age of 13 and again at 32. Researchers interviewed participants about social status at the age of 13 and about their smoking habits at the age of 32.

Considering self-identifying social status could be biased, researchers asked a larger group of 13-year-olds to nominate three people in their class they would like to work with. Researchers classified popularity of nominees by votes: 0, 1, 2-3, 4-6 and 7 or more. After 19 years, the students were interviewed directly about whether they smoked at all, smoked less than 20 cigarettes per day or more than 20 per day. The study’s findings showed that students with no votes were 3.67 times more likely to smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day.

Authors concluded, “Low peer status in adolescence appears to be a risk factor for smoking in adulthood. Part of this association may be explained by adolescents’ feelings towards school and cognitive ability (mental ability).”

“However, being unpopular in adolescence remains a strong risk factor for regular and heavy smoking in adulthood.”

Tobacco education and identifying high-risk heavy smokers may be necessary for early interventions. This study was published in November in Addiction. No funding information was given and no conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
November 26, 2012