Canadian researchers used data from the 1993 U.S. National Mortality Followback Survey to compare natural, accidental, suicide, and homicide deaths. The data included information on lifetime smoking duration, history of ever quitting smoking, and duration of abstinence from smoking. And it also included a “psychological autopsy” drawn from interviews with next of kin that collected information on history of depressive disorders, alcohol consumption or drug use, living alone in the last year of life, and keeping a firearm—all potential risk factors for violent death. Veteran status was obtained from the death certificate.
They found that male suicide decedents smoked for a larger fraction of their lives compared with decedents in the control groups, were less likely to have quit smoking at any point in their life, and abstained from smoking for a smaller fraction of their life. And the association between chronic smoking and risk for suicide remained after controlling for other possible risk factors, suggesting that smoking itself could be an independent risk factor.
“Smoking is a form of self-medication that is addictive,” lead researcher Lloyd Balbuena, M.S., Ph.D., of the University of Saskatchewan Department of Psychiatry told Psychiatric News. “In the very short-term, smoking improves mood, but in the long run...smoking worsens mood and impairs cognitive function. It is not far-fetched to believe that with these challenges, the person is more vulnerable to stressors that could otherwise be handled more easily.”
To read more about research on suicide, see the Psychiatric News article, “Preventing Patient Suicide: Know Thy Patient.”
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