Researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration drew on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a long-standing survey that surveyed thousands of Americans about their mental health, drug use, and more. The survey asks participants to self-report if they smoked in the past month.
There is a long-standing link between tobacco use and behavioral disorders. A significantly higher proportion of people with mental disorders use tobacco compared to those without the disorders, and a 2017 American Lung Association analysis found that 35 percent of all smokers have a mental illness, such as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. .
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However, the new data suggests that is about to change.
In 2006, 37.3 percent of participants diagnosed with major depressive disorder said they had smoked cigarettes in the past month. In 2019, 24.2 percent said they had. Smoking dropped from 46.5 percent to 35.8 percent for those with substance use disorders, and from 50.7 to 37 percent for those with both.
“These declines tell a public health success story,” Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and senior author of the study, said in a news release.
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The drop didn’t apply to everyone: The rates didn’t budge for American Indians and Alaskan Natives, who have a much higher prevalence of cigarette smoke — and lung disease — than their counterparts.
The survey also did not include data on institutionalized or homeless people; the researchers say they want to look at those factors in the future.
In recent years, cigarette use has fallen sharply across the country. In 2005, nearly 21 percent of American adults used cigarettes. In 2020, that number dropped to 12.5 percent.