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Tobacco and Alcohol Use Links to Mental Health

A recently published study confirmed the link between the use of tobacco and alcohol and increased scores on a measure of anxiety and depression symptoms. In addition, the study found an interaction between tobacco use and disability status. In this cross-sectional study, Yi Huang, ScM, and Travis Loux, PhD, of Saint Louis University examined data on over 27,000 adults from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The primary outcome of interest was a score on a six-question screening tool, known as the K6, that assesses a person’s level of anxiety and depression over the previous 30 days. The focus of the study was how tobacco consumption, alcohol use, and disability status related to a person’s K6 score. Disability status (yes or no) indicated the presence of any disability in at least one of five areas: vision, hearing, thinking, walking, or dressing. Results showed that individuals who used tobacco and alcohol were more likely to report symptoms of serious mental health issues (i.e., a higher K6 score) than those who did not use these substances, after adjusting for disability status and other baseline covariates, such as employment, income, and race. Disability status was also significantly associated with K6 score and had a greater association with K6 score than either tobacco or alcohol use. For individuals with disabilities, tobacco use was associated with a greater increase in K6 score than for individuals without disabilities. When excluding tobacco consumption, the interaction term between alcohol use and disability status was not found to be statistically significant.

The researchers conclude that the interaction effect between disability and tobacco consumption amplifies the risk of poor mental health among this vulnerable population and recommend that future research should continue to investigate this relationship in more detail.

Source: Huang, Y., & Loux, T. (2023). A cross-sectional study: Association between tobacco/alcohol usage and mental health with disabilities. Mental Health & Prevention, 32, 200302. 6570, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mhp.2023.200302.