In a recent study, researchers from the University of Bristol have found evidence on the link between prolonged experience of loneliness and smoking.

The study that applied a novel research method — Mendelian randomisation — using genetics and survey data from hundreds of people, was published in the journal Addiction where they found that loneliness could likely increase smoking.

“This method has never been applied to this question before and so the results are novel, but also tentative,” Dr Robyn Wootton, co-lead author, said in a statement.
Possible explanation for the link between smoking and loneliness include cigarette being a source of comfort or alleviator of anxiety or providing a familiar activity that can fill long time periods.

Again, smoking has been suggested to increase people’s loneliness with nicotine interfering with the dopamine in the brain.
The study found evidence to suggest being lonelier increases the likelihood of starting smoking, and the number of cigarettes smoked per day, while decreasing the likelihood of successfully quitting.

“If lonely people are more likely to start smoking and find it harder to quit, they are more likely to suffer the harm caused by smoking,” Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the UK public health charity Action of Smoking & Health (ASH), said in a statement.

The researchers also investigated the relationship between loneliness and alcohol use and abuse but found no clear evidence for a casual relationship in this scenario.

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