Depressed, Stressed and Not Respected? You Must Be a Smoker!

Smoking takes its toll on your physical wellbeing, but there’s something to be said for the emotional effects, right? Most people who smoke say that it helps them to calm down but, according to a new study Americans who smoke are in worse emotional health than are those who do not smoke. On the Emotional Health Index, smokers were found to have an average of 72.0, compared to 81.1 for non-smokers.

For the study, the researchers conducted 83,000 interviews between January and June 2013, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index. The participants, who were Americans aged 18 and older, were asked whether they experienced the following ‘during a lot of the day yesterday’: smiling or laughter, learning or doing something interesting, being treated with respect, enjoyment, happiness, worry, sadness, anger, and stress – and clinical diagnosis of depression.

While Americans in poverty are 33% likely to smoke, compared to the 19.9% of Americans not in poverty, the results of the study revealed that smokers, regardless of their income level, report worse emotional health than those who do not smoke. So if it’s not socioeconomic status alone that accounts for the differences in emotional health between smokers and non-smokers, what else is about being a smoker that relates to having worse emotional health?

In terms of stress, 50% of smokers were affected “yesterday”, compared to 37% of non-smokers. Smokers were also more likely to have experienced worry, anger, and sadness a lot of the previous day – but does this mean that these negative emotions led people to begin smoking, or did the act of smoking make participants more likely to report experiencing these negative emotions? Furthermore, 26% of smokers reported having ever been clinically diagnosed with depression, compared to 15% of non-smokers.

When it came to positive emotions, such as enjoyment, happiness, and smiling or laugher, smokers were less likely to experience these “yesterday, and were less likely than non-smokers to say they learned or did something new, at 57% and 66%, respectively. Additionally, fewer smokers than non-smokers felt as though they had been treated with respect the day before. According to the study, one in four Americans have less respect for smokers, which either affects how smokers are actually treated or how they perceive they are treated.