"Rejected Teens" More Likely to Smoke
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A person's social standing during that harrowing era of life known as adolescence may influence future smoking habits. According to new research from Sweden, teens who were less popular or who were "rejected" by their peers are more likely to become smokers in adulthood. Researchers from Stockholm University interviewed 2,329 participants when they were 13-years-old to assess "peer status" and then again, nearly two decades years later, to inquire about their smoking habits at age 32. They found that those who had claimed a "lower status" as a teen were more likely to smoke heavily or regularly in adulthood. As a possible explanation for the pattern, researchers suggest that a teenager may begin to internalize an inferiority complex based on social standing, which could lead to picking up nicotine as a coping mechanism. Another theory is that teens may take up smoking while still in their adolescence in order to gain popularity (a prior study from California suggested teens are still smoking "to be cool"). The researchers believe that more anti-smoking programs in schools can help prevent teens from lighting up; they also claim, somewhat optimistically, that these programs could help integrate teens from various social groups, and help break down popularity hierarchies that are damaging to teens' well-being and health.