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Children of Divorced Parents More Likely to Smoke as Adults, Study Finds

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Children of divorced parents are more likely to smoke when they reach adulthood, compared with their peers whose parents have stayed together, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Toronto studied more than 19,000 adults. They found men who were younger than 18 when their parents divorced were 48 percent more likely to have smoked at least 100 or more cigarettes, compared with men whose parents stayed married. For women who were under 18 when their parents divorced, the increased risk of smoking was 39 percent higher, compared with women whose parents stayed together, HealthDay reports.

“Finding this link between parental divorce and smoking is very disturbing,” study lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson said in a news release. She noted the association between parents’ divorce and their children’s smoking remained even after taking into account such factors as education, mental health issues, parental addiction or childhood abuse.

“Each of these characteristics has been shown in other studies to be linked with smoking initiation,” she said. “However, even when we took all these factors into account, a strong and significant association between parental divorce and smoking remained.”

The researchers did not determine why adults who were children when their parents divorced were more likely to smoke. They may have used smoking as a coping mechanism, according to co-researcher Joanne Filippelli. “Some research suggests this calming effect may be particularly attractive to those who have suffered early adversities,” she said.

The study is published in Public Health.

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