Childhood Adversity Prompts Women to Smoke

By McCarton Ackerman 07/13/12

But the same doesn't apply to men, who seem to process trauma in different ways, researchers say.

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Sometimes coping is all you can do.

If you're a man who smokes, it's probably not because you had a troubled childhood. A new study using data from more than 7,200 Kaiser-Permanente members in San Diego shows that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) may lead women to start smoking later in life—but the same thing apparently doesn't apply to men. The research indicates that women who were abused physically or emotionally as children are 1.4 times more likely to start smoking—and that risk doubles if either of the woman's parents were in prison. ACEs can also contribute to an increased risk of developing many diseases. So why don't ACEs cause men to smoke? The study suggests that men may have other coping mechanisms that they use to address this trauma. "Since ACEs increase the risk of psychological distress for both men and women, it seemed intuitive that an individual experiencing an ACE will be more likely to be a tobacco cigarette smoker," says Dr. Tara Strine, lead author of the study. "However, in our study, ACEs only to increased the risk of smoking among women. Given this, men who have experienced childhood trauma may have different coping mechanisms than their female counterparts."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.