Carried out by researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem's-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Israel, the University of Belgrade, Serbia and the University of Pristina, Kosovo, the new study looked at more than 2,000 students enrolled at Serbian universities, who were surveyed about their smoking habits and depressive symptoms.
The findings, published Wednesday in PLOS ONE, showed that the among the students who smoke the rates of clinical depression were two to three times higher than among the non-smoking students.
More specifically, 14 percent of students who smoked at the University of Pristina were found to be suffering from depression, compared to just 4 percent of the non-smoking participants. At Belgrade University, 19 percent of the smokers suffered from depression, compared to 11 percent of the non-smokers.
The findings still held true even after the researchers had taken into account the students' economic and socio-political backgrounds.
"Our study adds to the growing body of evidence that smoking and depression are closely linked," said study author Professor Hagai Levine. "While it may be too early to say that smoking causes depression, tobacco does appear to have an adverse effect on our mental health."
Levine added that he would like policy makers to start taking into account smoking's effect on mental health. "I urge universities to advocate for their students' health by creating 'Smoke-Free Campuses' that not only ban smoking on campus but tobacco advertising, too."
A 2017 study carried out by researchers at King's College London and the Charles University in Prague, also found that quitting smoking could help improve symptoms of depression. After looking at 3,775 patients attending a stop-smoking clinic in the Czech Republic, they found that 66.3 percent of successful quitters who had had moderate or severe depression while smoking reported no or minimal symptoms of depression during a one-year follow up. Smoking rates among people with mental health conditions are more than double those of the general population in the UK -- around 40% vs. 20% -- with around three million of the 9.6 million adult smokers in the UK living with a mental health condition.
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