Study shows keys to why people start and stop smoking
Mike Johnston has no idea what he was thinking when he took up cigarettes at age 15.
"I was definitely more impulsive back then than I am now," said Johnston, 39, of Oakville, Mo., as he puffed away on a downtown sidewalk during a work break. "I was young and had no responsibilities. Now I have a wife and two kids."
Charlie Condor, 49, of St. John, Mo., was smoking with co-workers when he admitted that his lifestyle and woeful views about life might have played a role in his decision to start smoking 28 years ago.
"Just kid stuff, you know? I was coming up through adulthood and it seemed like life was against me," he said.
The way that Johnston and Condor assess their younger selves mirrors recent findings of two researchers at University of Missouri.
By analyzing data collected during a long-term study, Andrew K. Littlefield, doctoral student in psychology, and Kenneth J. Sher, professor of psychology, have found that people who smoke at age 18 have higher rates of impulsivity than non-smokers at that age. They've also found that those who quit between ages 18 and 25 show the biggest decreases in impulsivity during that time period.
The study, which began in 1987 with one group of 489 Mizzou students and has continued with several more groups, is intended to assess substance use in general, not just smoking, according to Littlefield.
Among other things, subjects are asked to rate how well two statements describe their behaviors on a scale of one to 10. The statements pertain to whether they tend to think through facts, details and consequences before deciding to do something and whether they tend to worry a lot.
They are surveyed seven times - once a year during college then at about age 25, 29 and 35.
"We see the biggest changes in impulsivity and neuroticism between age 18 and 25," Littlefield said. "After age 30, most personality traits are usually set in plaster and they're not changing much."
Changes in people ages 18 to 25 begin happening when they leave their families, go to college, enter the workforce, get married and have children. Logic would dictate that becoming less impulsive and neurotic are a part of maturing, which causes many smokers to quit.
But Littlefield and other scientists aren't ready to draw that conclusion yet.
Quitting smoking might be prompting the changes in personality traits, he said. He stressed, however, that he means personality changes over a long time frame, not short-term ones like nervousness and lower self-regulation that come from nicotine withdrawals.
Littlefield and Sher have also concluded that, by the time a person is 35, smoking is usually no longer related to neuroticism and impulsivity.
"Now, it's moving from those traits to addiction and compulsivity, which is when your behaviors are patterns," Littlefield said. "You're on autopilot, lighting up without thinking when you get out of bed or on the way to work."
He believes the findings of his study could be useful in figuring out ways to help people quit smoking before it becomes addictive and compulsive.
Studies have shown, he said, that "there are residual effects when you follow up with students after they've taken a money management course. You find that many of them reduce drinking and either quit or reduce smoking. They not only spend less, but they reduce behaviors associated with high impulsivity."
He urges people to think of self-regulation as a muscle. It can become fatigued if you use it too much, or it can grow stronger when exercised.
"Likewise," he added, "if you can target internal thoughts you can make them more positive and reduce the impact of being neurotic."
(c)2011 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Distributed by MCT Information Services
- Study finds quitting smoking enhances personality change Sep 12, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Impulsivity-related problem drinking decreases greatly for 18- to 25-year-olds May 31, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Large decline in impulsivity in early adulthood related to decrease in alcohol consumption Jun 29, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- UCSD Researchers Find Young Adults More Likely to Quit Smoking Successfully Jan 04, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Study: Personality traits associated with stress and worry can be hazardous to your health Aug 18, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
People eating at fast food restaurants largely underestimate the calorie content of meals, especially large ones, according to a paper published today in BMJ.
Health 1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
Don't doubt it when a woman harried by hot flashes says she's having a hard time remembering things. A new study published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), helps confirm with o ...
Health 2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
The Senate has overwhelmingly rejected an amendment allowing states to require labeling of genetically modified foods.
Health 2 hours ago | not rated yet | 1
(AP)—McDonald's once again faced criticism that it's a purveyor of junk food that markets to children at its annual shareholder meeting Thursday.
Health 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Can economic incentives such as gift cards, T-shirts, and time off from work motivate members of the public to increase their donations of blood?
Health 5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
(HealthDay)—Glucosamine supplements that millions of Americans take to help treat hip and knee osteoarthritis may have an unexpected side effect: They may increase risk for developing glaucoma, a small ...
26 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Regulating the distribution of power in neurons is done by a system that makes the national electric grid look simple by comparison. Each neuron has several thousand mitochondria confined ...
2 hours ago | 4.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health report they have discovered in mouse studies that a small molecule released in the spinal cord triggers a process that is later experienced in the brain as ...
5 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Teams of highly respected Alzheimer's researchers failed to replicate what appeared to be breakthrough results for the treatment of this brain disease when they were published last year in the journal Science.
5 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
International efforts to combat a new pneumonia-like virus that has now killed 22 people are being slowed by unclear rules and competition for the potentially profitable rights to disease samples, the head ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
Two out of five medical students have an unconscious bias against obese people, according to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The study is published online ahead of print in the Journal of ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0