Domestic violence identified as stressor associated with smoking

Dec 19, 2007

Using a large population survey in India, a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers has found an association between domestic violence and adult smoking. The study appears in the December 11, 2007 issue of the journal Tobacco Control.

Smoking and chewing tobacco contribute to some 800,000 deaths in India every year. The smoking rate for Indian men is around 29%, for women, approximately 3%. The rate of tobacco chewing is around 29% for men, 12% for women. Although rates of tobacco use are low among women, early indications are that these levels are on the rise. While the harmful effects of tobacco use are well-documented, there has been little research looking at the stressors associated with tobacco use among Indians.

One of those stressors, or risk factors, is domestic violence, a serious problem in India. Some 40% of Indian women report being slapped, kicked, hit or beaten during their marriages. Smaller studies in the U.S. have also found an association between domestic violence and smoking. Researchers hypothesize that smoking may act as a “stress reliever” in households that experience domestic violence. In fact, Indians who smoke or chew tobacco cite stress relief as one of the reasons they begin using and continue to use tobacco.

To see if there was a link between domestic violence and tobacco use in India, the researchers, led by lead author Leland Ackerson, a research fellow, and senior author S. V. Subramanian, associate professor in the Department of Society, Human Development and Health, used data from the National Family Health Survey, a representative cross-sectional survey administered in India during 1998-1999. The samples included 89,092 women and 278,977 family members aged 15 and older.

The researchers found that, for women who had ever been married, 19% reported incidents of abuse; 85% of abused women reported abuse by their husbands. The study found that women who reported past and current abuse had 20%-40% increased odds of tobacco use compared with women reporting no abuse, even after controlling for factors such as income and education level. Another finding was that smoking risk increased for any adult in households where domestic violence was prevalent, regardless of whether they were personally a victim, a perpetrator or neither.

“This is the first study to show a link between domestic violence and tobacco use in a developing country. It is a powerful piece of evidence that we found this same relationship in a place where poverty is endemic that had previously been shown only in wealthy nations,” said Ackerson.

The study highlights yet another negative outcome of the social problem of domestic violence. “This research is important in terms of both tobacco control and the campaign against domestic violence,” added Subramanian. “It reinforces the notion that addressing the psychological and social context is key in the fight against tobacco. Additionally, our findings provide further proof of the negative effects of domestic violence, evidence which will hopefully aid those working to address this problem.”

Source: Harvard School of Public Health

Explore further: New study from Harvard identifies transgender health disparities

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

2 hours ago

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Internists favor public policy to reduce gun violence

8 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Most internists believe that firearm-related violence is a public health issue and favor policy initiatives aimed at reducing it, according to research published online April 10 in the Annals of ...

iPLEDGE isotretinoin counseling may need updating

8 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The iPLEDGE program needs to provide women with information about more contraceptive choices, including reversible contraceptives, according to research published in the April issue of JAMA De ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DeeSmith
5 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2008
"Some 40% of Indian women report being slapped, kicked, hit or beaten during their marriages." Couple paragraphs down, " The researchers found that, for women who had ever been married, 19% reported incidents of abuse". ??

Only 3% of Indian women are reported to use tobacco. Smoking is more common in households where abuse is tolerated. Smokers have (1) low natural tolerance threshold for stress; (2) have nicotine-impaired stress tolerance; (3) exhibit impaired risk-recognition; and (4) are likely to engage in physical violence as a result of low stress tolerance. Smoking is more prevalent among low income families, regardless of nationality and ethnicity, but, certain ethnicities appear to have increased susceptibility to cellular damage caused by psychological stress. This probably arises from lifestyle (nutritional) and environmental factors (chronic pollution exposure). Offspring of smokers (particularly paternal smokers) with pre- and post-natal exposure are also more likely to have epigenetic mutations in neurological development that may perpetuate low stress tolerance thresholds and substance abuse predisposition within families.

More news stories

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...