Loneliness leads to an increased likelihood of smoking and makes it harder to quit the habit, new research has revealed.
A team at the University of Bristol discovered evidence for a causal link between experiences of loneliness and smoking cigarettes.
Previous studies have exposed a link between the two. However, they have not determined whether smoking behaviour leads to loneliness or if loneliness leads to smoking behaviour.
This comes as Yougov’s COVID-19 tracker suggests more than two million across the UK are smoking more than they were before lockdown.
Support to stop
‘If lonely people are more likely to start smoking and find it harder to quit, they are more likely to suffer the harm caused by smoking,’ said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking & Health (ASH).
‘Smoking is the leading cause of preventable premature death, with 30 times as many people who die suffering serious smoking-related illnesses such as cancer, heart and respiratory disease.
‘This research highlights the need for smokers suffering from loneliness to receive support to stop. This is to improve not just their health and wellbeing but also to help reduce their loneliness.’
The study found evidence that being lonelier not only increases the likelihood of starting to smoke, but also the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Additionally, it also decreases the likelihood of quitting.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show in the first month of lockdown, 7.4 million people reported a change in their wellbeing through feelings of loneliness.
‘Suddenly, the whole of the UK has become more socially isolated than ever before. For many people, this will likely increase their loneliness,’ said co-lead author, Dr Robyn Wootton.
‘It is interesting to find that loneliness decreases the likelihood of stopping smoking. We think this is a really important consideration for those trying to stop smoking during the pandemic.
‘The UK is still yet to see the full effects of the coronavirus pandemic on alcohol and cigarette use.
‘Our study does not look at the effects of loneliness and social isolation as the result of the pandemic. However, it can shed some light on the consequences of loneliness in general.’
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