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Depression and Teenage Smoking

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Depression and Teenage Smoking

Teenage smoking can be seen as a factor that contributes heavily to teenage depression. In 1998, McGee showed “that children with mental health problems are at a higher risk of smoking in their teens (McGee, William, Stanton, 1998). Teenage smoking is due in large part to several factors. These factors include socioeconomic status, peer pressure, and the attempt to eliminate feelings of anxiety or sadness. McGee indicates that “a high level of smoking is associated with a higher risk of anxiety and panic disorder” (McGee et. al., 1998). Teenagers that experience a lot of stressors find that through smoking they are able to self-medicate and alleviate behaviors and/or feelings that they are experiencing. Therefore, stressors that are commonly found in teenagers’ lives are in actuality the primary cause of teenage smoking, and this smoking increases the teenagers’ risk for depression.

The first factor that plays on teenagers’ progression into smoking is socio-economic status. Goodman and Capitman note that teenagers from disadvantageous backgrounds are unable to cope with the pressures of not having materialistic things (Goodman and Capitman, 2000). The higher the level of parents’ education, the greater the chance of those parents educating their children on the dangers of smoking and how to handle stress. Therefore, the less money that parents make and the less education that parents have increases the risk for teenage smoking. These risk factors are a strong indicator of teenagers’ ability to cope with everyday stressors and therefore, are an indicator of teenage smoking.

The second factor studied is peer pressure. Peer pressure is a factor in that teenagers want to have and do what their friends think is “cool”. This pressure to belong to a group is an everyday occurrence in today’s society. While adults are able to more easily able to handle the pressure of society, teenagers are in a constant battle to “belong”. Teenagers, who are already trying to fit in, will often begin smoking in an effort to appear cool and to appear as if they are part of the group. In addition, they often find themselves smoking in an effort to relieve the stress associated with peer pressure (Wu & Anthony, 1999).

The third factor that affects teenage smoking is dealing with anxiety and sadness in their daily lives. In the day to day activities that teenagers face, there is an incredible amount of anxiety. They must face the ability to perform both in school and in extra-curricular activities. In addition, they face the struggle of dealing with an ever-changing physical appearance and the emotional roller coaster of changing hormones. Therefore, through the exploration for the above mentioned risk factors it can be found that they play a large part in determining if a teenager will begin smoking and suffer from depression.


For the purpose of this study 100 teenagers participated in a depression screening. The teenagers varied in age from 12-16 years of age. The teenagers were African American, Hispanic, and Caucasian. Half of the teenagers were male and half were female. The group was then divided into two sub-groups based on whether or not their scores indicated depression. The first group consisted of teens whose scores indicated that they were not depressed. The second group was made up of those teenagers whose scores indicated depression. The two sub-groups were then surveyed on their smoking habits.

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