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Depressed People Smoke More, Quit Less

As Depression Deepens, Cigarette Smoking Increases
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 14, 2010 -- Depressed people are more likely to smoke and less likely to quit, a CDC survey suggests.

The findings don't prove that depression causes smoking, or that smoking causes depression. But the data, from nationwide surveys of adults conducted from 2005 through 2008, show there's a strong link between depression and cigarette smoking.

Depressed people are much more likely to smoke than people who aren't depressed, the CDC finds. And the number of cigarettes people smoke increases as their depression deepens.

Moreover, smokers suffering depression grab for that first cigarette of the day sooner than smokers who aren't depressed.

Among people who aren't depressed, women are less likely to smoke than men are. But depressed women smoke as much as depressed men.

Here are some other key findings for adults age 20 and older from the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2005-2008:

  • 48% of women and 40% of men with severe depression are smokers. Among people who are not depressed, 17% of women and 25% of men are smokers.
  • More than half of depressed smokers light up within five minutes of waking. Only 30% of smokers who aren't depressed do this.
  • Nearly twice as many depressed smokers as non-depressed smokers average more than a pack a of cigarettes each day (28% vs. 15%).
  • In every age group, depressed people were less likely to have quit smoking than people who weren't depressed.
  • Depressed people are more likely to have tried smoking than non-depressed people.

Overall, some 7% of Americans in the CDC surveys reported some degree of depression.

For those who smoke, there's good news: A small number of studies show that people with depression can successfully quit smoking if enrolled in intensive cessation programs.

Laura A. Pratt, PhD, and Debra J. Brody, MPH, of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) report the findings in the April NCHS Data Brief "Depression and Smoking in the U.S. Household Population Age 209 and Over, 2005-2008."

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