Depression linked to E-cigarettes and cigarette use among college students

Jul.15.2022
Depression linked to E-cigarettes and cigarette use among college students
Depression linked to tobacco use among college students, according to study in Psychiatry Research Communications.

A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found a positive correlation between depression and tobacco product use, including electronic and traditional cigarettes, among college students.


This study analyzed data from the Fall 2020 cohort of the Healthy Minds Study, which collected information on the psychological health of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as sociodemographic covariates and other relevant factors. The online survey was distributed to 36 universities across the United States between September and December 2020. Five of these universities included drug use in the survey, resulting in a sample size of 2,115 for this study.


Attendees reported on individuals who exclusively use e-cigarettes, exclusively use traditional cigarettes, and those who use a combination of both. The symptoms of depression were measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) for the participants. The PHQ-9 questionnaire scores the answers on a scale ranging from 0 to 27, with scores above 5 indicating possible depression.


The study measures societal norms surrounding tobacco use and perceptions of risks associated with tobacco use. In order to gauge societal norms, participants were asked to estimate the percentage of college students who smoke. Responses to questions about tobacco risks were measured on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 indicating "no risk" and 4 indicating "high risk.


Using logistic regression analysis, this study examines the social norms of tobacco use among individuals with symptoms of depression, perceived risk of smoking, and those who use both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes.


The average age of participants was 23.41±7.84 years, with 43.8% being female and 85.6% being white. Participants reported that in the past 30 days, 22.38% only used e-cigarettes, 7.89% only used traditional cigarettes, and 2.72% used a combination of both.


A study has found that 33.1% of participants met the criteria for possible depression, with an average score of 8.00 ± 6.33. The levels of depression were higher among all groups who used tobacco products: those who only used e-cigarettes (OR, 1.08; 95%CI, 1.06-1.10), those who only smoked traditional cigarettes (OR, 1.09; 95%CI, 1.06-1.12), and those who used both (OR, 1.05; 95%CI, 1.00-1.10).


Participants reported medium risks associated with smoking and vaping, with average scores of 3.26 ± 1.01 and 2.85 ± 0.98, respectively. The perceived social norms related to the use of electronic cigarettes (OR, 1.01; 95% CI 1.00-1.02) and cigarettes (OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.00-1.03) were higher and associated with increased use of these tobacco products.


Most participants in the study were white students, so the results may not be representative. Although the researchers emphasized the confidentiality of the responses, students may have underreported their tobacco use.


Overall, researchers have concluded that there is a link between depression and both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes. They have found that the likelihood of using e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes is positively associated with the likelihood of depression.


The researchers stated that gaining further knowledge on psychosocial and mental health related factors could provide valuable information in understanding the smoking habits and associated risks in college students. This understanding can guide the development of smoking cessation policies.


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