Does Smoking Increase Your Risk for Anxiety and Depression?

The negative effects of smoking have been studied exhaustively. Results of existing research on smoking show that smoking can not only lead to a number of physical health problems and physiological health conditions, but also potentially exacerbate mental health issues. In fact, some research suggests that smoking can lead to psychological problems, while other research shows that psychological illness increases the risk of smoking. To clarify this issue, Johan Hakon Bjorngaard of the Department of Public Health and the Faculty of Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Norway conducted an analysis using data from over 53,000 adult smokers. He looked specifically at the genetic make-up and alleles of a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) to see if there was a genetic predictor of who was more likely to smoke, and whether the SNP could predict which smokers were at risk for depression and anxiety.

Bjorngaard evaluated self reports and clinical data and found that individuals who smoked had higher rates of both depression and anxiety than nonsmokers. The SNP was able to identify those who smoked, and based on the number of alleles, Bjorngaard could also determine the number of cigarettes the individuals smoked. The results of the examination also revealed that as the number of alleles affected increased, so did the risk of developing anxiety. This same finding did not apply to risk of depression.

These results provide evidence that genetic markers can indicate who is more likely to smoke, and can even approximate how much a person smokes. However, they do not show that smoking raises the risk for mental illness. It is more likely that individuals with anxiety and depression use smoking as a form of self-medication. Also, Bjorngaard believes that people who smoke may have more physical health problems, which can also put them at risk for depression and anxiety. A secondary finding of this study was that the genetic marker and allele association was an indicator of having ever smoked or not. Bjorngaard believes that perhaps this could indicate a genetic risk for smoking initiation. “However,” he added, “As the finding was restricted to current smokers, it seems more likely that the finding suggests that quitting smoking is more difficult for those carrying this genetic variant.” Regardless, this study opens new lines of questioning related to mental illness, smoking risk, and smoking cessation that should be studied in future research.

Bjørngaard, J.H., et al. (2013). The causal role of smoking in anxiety and depression: A Mendelian randomization analysis of the HUNT Study. Psychological Medicine 43.4 (2013): 711-9. ProQuest. Web.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Lanvin


    March 27th, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    This sort of blows my mind because all of my friends who smoke say that they do it in large part because it realxes them, not causes them to be even more anxious. And depressed? The old image that I always have of someone being depressed is being stuck inside all day mindlessly puffing away on a smoke. So this could be making the symptoms even worse?

  • Nate


    March 27th, 2013 at 11:20 PM

    Just so many people turn to smoking to get “help” with their anxiety or depression. But they r only making things worse 4 themselves. I guess smoking does indeed help in the short term – getting ur mind off things. But take a look @ the long term effects nd its better to stay away!

  • Patsy


    March 28th, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    My absolute favorite moment in Germany-going to the gym and having other gym members finish up their cigarettes before going into the gym to work out.

  • Rebekkah


    March 28th, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    Well this sure explains why my brother can’t seem to quit smoking. There is definitely a strong vein of depression running through my family. So, it makes sense that he may have started smoking to deal with the depression. And, it makes sense that the depression could be getting in the way of his quitting. I cannot tell you how many times he has tried and failed to quit. Probably the same number of times his sister had lost and gained weight.

  • Mable


    March 28th, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    oh my gosh have you EVER tried to quit smoking? if not then i sure hope that means you haven’t even started to smoke. If you haven’t and you are thinking about it because you are depressed RUN away from the cigs!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It is so hard to quit you just. can’t even imagine if you have never had to do it before. Just don’t even start i beg you!

    i have been a smoker for 27 years and have probably tried to quit 100 times and I JUST CANNOT DO IT!!!!!!!!!!! its the most frustrating and aggravating thing ever so if you haven’t started DO NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Weber


    March 28th, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    Smoking is so gross!
    My boy started smoking when he was 16.
    I kicked him out of the house for it.
    Now he’s 36 and still smoking like a dern chimney.
    I don’t care if he is depressed or anxious, it’s just gross.

  • Austin


    May 28th, 2015 at 12:32 AM

    Wow, parent of the year right here.

  • Nandina M

    Nandina M

    March 28th, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    My heart goes out to those who turn to smoking b/c of anxiety and depression. What a sure way to ruin the good health God gave you!

  • bennett


    March 28th, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    I seriously hope that the people who still continue to smoke even when they know that it is a plain out bad idea will read a few things and get a clue. Smoking is never going to help you relax and with raising your blood pressure and stuff like that, then yeah, I can definitely see that it could increase your anxiety. If you read anything about the results that happen to people who smoke, I just don’t get why some people continue to act like it’s no big deal and that it’s medicinal for them. Not! This is a blight on our society, the fact that people continue to puff away, even with all of the research that shows just how harmful it can really be.

  • TF


    March 29th, 2013 at 11:57 PM

    I can imagine a future wherein children are screened for smoking risk and are treated better they even develop the habit. Takes the meaning of “prevention is better than cure” to a whole different level, doesn’t it?!

  • Louis


    March 31st, 2013 at 12:22 AM

    Been smoking half a pack a day for 30 years now. Some people just ridicule smokers for what they do. Never understood how anybody else could have a say in what I put into my body. So to all you smoker-haters: there is genetic reason now. So now can you just keep off??

  • vitamin smoke

    vitamin smoke

    April 4th, 2013 at 5:31 AM

    Essentially, smokers need antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid), and vitamin E. It was once believed that beta-carotene was an attribute for non-smokers, but recent clinical studies have found that beta-carotene can actually be harmful to smokers’ health. Beta-carotene can be found in most multi-vitamins and an excess of beta-carotene is risky for good nutritional health. If you are a smoker and going to take a multi-vitamin, be sure it doesn’t list beta-carotene as one of the ingredients.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.