Smoking kills. We all know that! In fact, many of us have even tried to quit the habit with the help of nicotine gums and patches. And some of us, even with sheer willpower. While a lot has been said and done about smoking and it’s health consequences–not many people pay attention to why exactly some of us are drawn to this bad habit to begin with.
Turns out, that sadness is a major contributor to why we pick up habits like smoking. Researchers from Harvard University have discovered that sadness plays an enduring role in provoking addictive behaviour when compared to other negative emotions.
Lead researcher Charles A. Dorison, a Harvard Kennedy School doctoral candidate explained in a new report published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
The conventional wisdom in the field was that any type of negative feeling, whether it’s anger, disgust, stress, sadness, fear or shame, would make individuals more likely to use an addictive drug.
“Our work suggests that the reality is much more nuanced than the idea of ‘feel bad, smoke more.’ Specifically, we find that sadness appears to be an especially potent trigger of addictive substance use,” he added.
In the first study, researchers examined 10,685 people over 20 years from national survey data and found that self-reported sadness among the participants was connected to smoking.
For further analysis, the researchers engaged 425 smokers in an online study wherein they were asked to watch video clips. The team tried to resolve whether sadness is responsible for smoking or gloomy life events as a whole. The results showed that people in sad condition—who watched a sad video—had a higher tendency to smoke than the rest.
In the third study, 700 participants were asked to watch videos; those in the sadness group were seen to be more impatient to smoke.
The study actually measured the impatience for cigarette puffs rather than self-reported cravings.
Additionally, to test how sadness influences smoking behaviour, a fourth study was conducted with 158 smokers. They abstained from smoking for a minimum of eight hours. As per the findings of this particular study, smokers in the sadness condition made more impatient choices and smoked greater volumes per puff.
“We believe that theory-driven research could help shed light on how to address this epidemic,” Dorison concluded.