British scientists find a causal relationship between long periods of loneliness and smoking.
Loneliness makes people more likely to smoke – such people are more likely to start and more difficult to quit this habit. Those who endure prolonged periods of loneliness are more likely to continue to smoke, even knowing the health risks.
According to British researchers, loneliness increases both the likelihood of starting smoking and the number of cigarettes smoked per day, and also reduces the likelihood of successful smoking cessation. A team from the University of Bristol used genetic data and survey data from more than 100 thousand adults, and concluded that loneliness is the direct cause of smoking.
For lonely, cigarettes become a source of comfort or alleviation of anxiety, or simply provide a familiar activity that can fill long periods of time, the authors say. But in a cruel vicious circle, smoking also increases people’s loneliness, probably due to nicotine, which interferes with the production of dopamine in the brain.