While Australian smoking rates continue to decline, it’s still the leading cause of preventable death in Australia.
Despite the long-term effects being well-known, many of us still choose to smoke, often citing the habit as a way to cope with depression, anxiety or stress. But is there a link? Read on to find out more.
Daily smoking is becoming less of a habit in Australia, with a clear downward trend from 24% of adults in 1991 to 12% in 2016. And while that’s worth celebrating, according to 2014-2015 data, there were still 2.6 million adults lighting up on a daily basis and cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of cancer in Australia.
Smoking is more common amongst men than women, and tends to be done amongst people in vulnerable groups more, particularly those living with a mental illness. Recent data from a 2016 study shows daily smokers to be more than twice as likely to have high levels of psychological distress or have a mental health condition, compared to people who have never smoked.
Medibank Health Index (MBHI) data from June 2017 - 2018 adds further weight to claims around links to stress showing a clear association between incidence of stress and smoking frequency. In smokers who have two cigarettes a day, 25.4% reported experiencing stress, more than doubling (52.5%) for those who have around half a pack per day. According to the data, smokers are also twice as likely to experience depression (31.7%) and panic attacks (11.6%) than non-smokers.
Does smoking relieve stress?
While smoking may be your go-to tactic for dealing with stress, it’s likely to be having the opposite effect on your body. Nicotine from cigarettes elevates your heart rate and blood pressure, making it harder to relax as your heart works harder. Between cigarettes, withdrawal can cause irritability, poor concentration and cravings, and when you reward those cravings with another smoke, the cycle starts again.