The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 13.7% of adults in the US smoke cigarettes on a regular basis. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US. A recent report has found that sadness plays the strongest role in triggering addictive behavior in regard to cigarette smoking, compared to other emotions.
For their study, the researchers conducted four interconnected studies. The first study involved looking at data from a national survey that included 10,685 participants. Analysis of the data showed that sadness was an accurate predictor of current smoking status as well as of relapsing 20 years later. Other negative emotions such as fear, anger, and shame were not reliable predictors.
The second study sought to determine if sadness causes people to smoke or if negative life events cause sadness and smoking. The researchers found that people had a higher craving for cigarettes when they were sad, compared to when they felt neutral or felt disgust.
The third and fourth studies measured whether sadness increased a person’s impatience for a cigarette. Participants’ impatience for a cigarette was increased by feelings of sadness, compared to neutral feelings. Sadness also increased the volume and duration of cigarette puffs inhaled.
The study was conducted by researchers from Harvard University. It was published online ahead of print on December 30, 2019 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.