Over There (in the UK)

November 22, 2000 at 10 AM

A new study suggests, according

A new study suggests, according to MSNBC, that mentally ill people are more likely to smoke. Harvard Medical School reports that people with a "diagnosable mental illness" consume 45% of cigarettes in the U.S.

Two things came to mind when I read this.

First, definitions of what is a "metal illness" are highly controversial and subjective. What mom might call a case of the blues a psychologist might term infrequent bi-polar disorder. We are too quick to label normal human emotions as symptoms of some medically-treatable issue. Who has never felt depressed? Who has never panicked about self-esteem? Obviously the difficulty is determining how much panic or depression is healthy, but that is not an easy determination.

Second, what this article seems to ignore, and what many non-smokers ignore, is that people like to smoke. It makes them feel good (at least in the short term). Doesn't it stand to reason that people have more problems are more likely to want a quick feel-good fix?

The article mentions another study that found "teen smokers were prone to anxiety disorders." Frankly I'd be surprised if anxious teenagers didn't have the odd cigarette.

I don't smoke. I find the habit disgusting. It smells bad. But we shouldn't be so quick to attribute all of society's problems to a dried up weed rolled in a piece of paper and set on fire (sounds like a magic spell, doesn't it?). Smoking may be a reflection of people's emotional or mental problems, but no evidence here suggests that it is a cause.



Previously: The Butterfly Effect, in FEED

Subsequently: Seattle newspaper journalists, working for

November 2000
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