Discovering the strange reason behind smoking and the difficulty of quitting it Discovering the strange reason behind smoking and the difficulty of quitting it

Discovering the strange reason behind smoking and the difficulty of quitting it

Discovering the strange reason behind smoking and the difficulty of quitting it

A new study finds that living in dangerous neighborhoods can lead to unintended health damage, such as higher rates of smoking among residents.

More people smoke, and have difficulty quitting, in neighborhoods where they feel unsafe, a University of Houston study suggests.

“High levels of neighborhood threat create perceptions of helplessness among residents, which increases overall feelings of distrust and can promote maladaptive behaviors such as smoking,” said researcher Michael Zvolensky, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the neighborhoods people live in can determine their health and well-being.

The researchers noted that while these factors are now understood to be important in the onset, maintenance, and relapse of drug use behavior, little research has assessed what the researchers called “neighborhood vigilance” in terms of smoking rates.

Zvolensky's team examined the role of "neighborhood vigilance" in relation to smoking and the severity of the problems smokers believed they might face if they tried to quit.

Living in less safe neighborhoods was associated with smokers believing it would be harder to quit, anticipating "negative mood and harmful consequences," Zvolensky said in a university news release.

These types of neighborhoods "are also associated with more serious problems when trying to quit smoking," he added.

The findings support the idea that dangerous neighborhoods exacerbate "some negative beliefs about abstinence and challenges in quitting smoking," Zvolensky explained.

The study included 93 adult smokers who were trying to quit smoking. Of this group, 64.5% identified as African American, 30.1% as white, 3.2% as other racial or ethnic group, and 2.2% as Asian.

All participants answered questions about their socio-demographic characteristics and neighborhoods.

Zvolensky said his findings point to the need for smoking cessation efforts that focus on social factors such as "neighborhood vigilance."

“Higher levels of neighborhood vigilance were associated with negative expectations of smoking abstinence, including negative mood and adverse consequences,” he explained.

The study points to the need to continue building theoretical knowledge and clinical intervention programming for smoking cessation that focuses more directly on social contextual factors such as neighborhood vigilance.

The results were recently published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.

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