Unpopular kids more likely to smoke as adults: study

26 November 2012 - 10:06 By AFP Relaxnews

Teens and adolescents characterized as marginalized outsiders with ‘low status’ among their peers are more likely to become adult smokers, suggests a new study out of Sweden.

After following more than 15 000 Swedes, researchers from Stockholm University isolated about 2 330 people through a questionnaire which asked teens to nominate their peers based on their popularity.

Individuals with few to no nominations by their classmates were characterized as marginalized, or on the periphery and assumed to be less accepted and respected among their peers.

Subjects were interviewed once at the age of 13 about their peer status, and again at the age of 32, about their smoking habits.

Results showed that the more unpopular and anonymous subjects were as teens, the increased likelihood that they would go on to become regular or heavy smokers in their adult lives. Regular smoking was defined as less than 20 cigarettes a day, and heavy smoking more than 20.

The study was published November 20 in the journal Addiction.

Scientists offer a few different possibilities for the link. Teens who grow up on the fringes as outsiders may be more likely to adopt “controversial” behaviors like smoking as a form of rebellion or resistance, the study says.

Unpopular kids may also be at increased risk for picking up the smoking habit out of low self-esteem or in a misguided attempt to look cool and popular.

In actual fact, another study out of the University of Toronto and the University of Montreal found that smoking actually increased depressive symptoms in some adolescents. The research, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors in 2010, found that teens who used cigarettes as mood enhancers had higher risks of elevated depressive symptoms compared to non-smoking peers.