Published: 2020-12-03 13:18 | Updated: 2020-12-03 13:18

Causal relationship between smoking and depression in adolescence according to new doctoral thesis

cigarett och rök
Photo: Pixabay.

Hello Elena Rafetti, doctoral student at the Department of Global Public Health. You will defend your thesis on 16 December. Tell us, what is the focus of your thesis and the project?

Portrait of a smiling Elena Raffetti.
Elena Raffetti, Department of Global Public Health. Photo: Private

My PhD project focuses on the relationship between smoking behavior and depressive symptoms among adolescents, and the possible role of stress systems and social context in this association employing multiple sources of data.”

What are the most important findings?

“This thesis suggests a causal relationship between nicotine exposure and depressive symptoms in adolescence. The role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis (one of the stress systems) activation as a possible mediator of this association is not supported by these findings. Conversely, this stress system may be involved as a determinant of smoking behavior.”

'The association between smoking and depressive symptoms was stronger in a context as Sweden characterized by a more restrictive policy on tobacco compared to a permissive environment as Italy.'

“Finally, the characteristics of the tobacco control environment may influence the co-occurrence of smoking behavior and depressive symptoms. In particular, the association between smoking and depressive symptoms was stronger in a context as Sweden characterized by a more restrictive policy on tobacco compared to a permissive environment as Italy.”

How can this knowledge contribute to improving people’s health?

“Future public health intervention may benefit from these results. If these results are confirmed, efforts should be directed towards specific subgroups of young individuals with a high liability to tobacco use, mental health problems and dysregulation of stress systems, in particular in contexts characterized by a restrictive tobacco control environment.”

What are your plans for the future?

“As a woman and public health doctor, I hope to contribute to the development of our societies and strive for universal access to care. As a researcher, I would also like to continue my academic career in a vibrant environment, where young researchers are encouraged to conduct cutting-edge research in the spirit of cooperation and creativity, and I would like to study if, for whom and how a specific phenomenon occurs using large epidemiological databases.”