Columbia University Medical Center

Incidence of Psychiatric Disorders Has Increased in a Shrinking Population of Smokers

Screening for psychiatric and substance problems may be warranted for younger smokers

New York NY, January 26, 2016 – Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) have found that while cigarette smoking rates have declined among younger people in the United States, those who do smoke are more likely to have a psychiatric or substance use disorder compared with those who began smoking in earlier decades.

The findings were published today in Molecular Psychiatry.

The study revealed that as overall rates of smoking have decreased, the proportion of smokers who are nicotine-dependent increased. The study also found that the likelihood of having a substance use disorder increased among all smokers with each decade, regardless of their dependence on nicotine. Nicotine-dependent smokers who began lighting up in the 1980s were also more likely than older smokers to have a psychiatric condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, or antisocial personality disorder.

“Our study confirms that recent smokers, though a relatively smaller group than those who started smoking decades ago, are more vulnerable to psychiatric and substance use disorders,” said lead author Ardesheer Talati, PhD, assistant professor of clinical neurobiology (in Psychiatry) at CUMC and NYSPI and a co-author of the study. “These findings suggest that today’s adolescent and young adult smokers may benefit from mental health screening so that any related psychiatric or substance use problems can be identified and addressed early.”

Smoking rates steadily increased during the first half of the 20th century. Beginning in the 1960s, growing recognition of the health risks associated with smoking led to a gradual decline in smoking rates, from nearly half of the US population in the 1950s to fewer than 20 percent today.

Researchers CUMC and NYSPI speculated that as smoking became increasingly stigmatized, the relative few who began smoking in later decades may be more susceptible to psychiatric and substance use disorders.

“The association between smoking and psychiatric and substance use problems has been well documented,” says Deborah Hasin, PhD, professor of epidemiology (in Psychiatry) at CUMC, director of the Substance Abuse Research Group at NYSPI, and a co-author of the study. “The current question is whether people who began smoking when it was less socially acceptable to do so were also somehow more likely to have mental health and substance use problems.”

The researchers investigated this hypothesis among 25,000 people who participated in the National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a large epidemiological survey funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The participants were divided into five birth groups: those who were born in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s.

“These findings also have implications for ongoing nationwide efforts to support smoking cessation efforts,” notes Katherine Keyes, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, and a co-author of the study. “Given that mental health problems are also predictive of unsuccessful efforts to reduce or quit smoking, the study suggests that smoking cessation methods that treat both nicotine withdrawal and underlying mental health conditions are crucial.”

The authors noted that additional studies are needed to determine if there is a causal relationship between biological or genetic factors and mental health or substance use problems in smokers.

The article is titled, “Changing relationships between smoking and psychiatric comorbidity across 20th century birth cohorts: Clinical and Research Implications.” It is online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/mp.2015.224.

The investigators are supported by grants from the NIDA (K01DA029598),the NIAAA (K01AA021511, K05AA014223), and Young Investigator NARSAD grants from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

The authors report no financial or other conflicts of interest.

New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Department of Psychiatry (NYSPI/Columbia Psychiatry)

New York State Psychiatric Institute (founded in 1896) and the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry have been closely affiliated since 1925. Their co-location in a New York State facility on the NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center campus provides the setting for a rich and productive collaborative relationship among scientists and physicians in a variety of disciplines. Columbia Psychiatry/NYSPI are ranked among the best departments and psychiatric research facilities in the nation and have contributed greatly to the understanding of and current treatment for psychiatric disorders. The Department and Institute are home to distinguished clinicians and researchers noted for their clinical and research advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, suicide, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorders and childhood psychiatric disorders. Their combined expertise provides state of the art clinical care for patients, and training for the next generation of psychiatrists and psychiatric researchers. Visit http://nyspi.org and http://columbiapsychiatry.org/ for more information.

 

About Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master’s and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit www.mailman.columbia.edu