New York: Sadness, and not all negative emotions, lead people to smoking and turn it into an addictive behaviour, a first-of-its-kind set of four inter-woven studies has revealed. A team of researchers based at Harvard University discovered that sadness plays an especially strong role in triggering addictive behaviour relative to other negative emotions like disgust.
“The conventional wisdom in the field was that any type of negative feeling, whether it’s anger, disgust, stress, sadness, fear or shame, would make individuals more likely to use an addictive drug,” said lead researcher Charles A. Dorison, a Harvard Kennedy School doctoral candidate. “Our work suggests that the reality is much more nuanced than the idea of ‘feel bad, smoke more.’ Specifically, we find that sadness appears to be an especially potent trigger of addictive substance use,” Dorison explained. In the first study, researchers examined data from a national survey that tracked 10,685 people over 20 years. They found that self-reported sadness among participants was associated with being a smoker and with relapsing back into smoking one and two decades later. In the second study, the team tried to figure out whether sadness cause people to smoke, or were negative life events causing both sadness and smoking.
To test this, 425 smokers were recruited for an online study who watched video clips. The findings showed that individuals in the sadness condition — who watched the sad video and wrote about a personal loss —had higher cravings to smoke than both the neutral group and the disgust group.