Scientists have established in a new study that being exposed to traumatic experiences during childhood can translate into poor health behaviors for adults. They term these events adverse childhood experiences (ACE), and say that they can lead to behaviors including smoking.
Researchers admit that figuring out why people start smoking in the first place is a very complex issue, which involves predispositions, family history of smoking, peer pressure and so on. Apparently, ACE are also a factor that contributes to people picking up tobacco smoking.
What the new study found was that women are especially prone to pick up the habit if they went through ACE during their younger years. For the purpose of this investigation, ACE were defined as including sexual, physical and emotion abuse of multiple kinds.
An interesting implication of the new study is that psychologists involved in efforts to counsel people into quitting the habit should, from now on, take the influence of negative emotional experiences into account. This could significantly increase the success rates of their therapies.
Details of the new research effort appear in the latest issue of Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, an open-access journal that is edited by BioMed Central
. The paper suggests that neglect and household dysfunction can also constitute ACE.
“Since ACEs increase the risk of psychological distress for both men and women, it seemed intuitive that an individual experiencing an ACE will be more likely to be a tobacco cigarette smoker,” says lead study researcher Dr. Tara Strine, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“However, in our study, ACE only increased the risk of smoking among women. Given this, men who have experienced childhood trauma may have different coping mechanisms than their female counterparts,” she goes on to say.
The emergence of unhealthy coping behaviors following a shock or negative experience is relatively common, and can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Smoking is just one of the avenues people take in order to cope with what's happened to them. Others resort to drugs, commit suicide, or the likes.
“Our results show that, among women, an underlying mechanism that links ACE to adult smoking is psychological distress, particularly among those who have suffered emotional or physical abuse or physical neglect as a child,” Strine concludes.