According to a new study published in the journal Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, girls who experience trauma during their childhood are more likely to smoke when they are older.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, neglect and growing up in a dysfunctional home, affect a large range of people. In addition, children exposed to ACEs during childhood may end up developing unhealthy coping behaviors when they are adults.

In a survey of over 7,000 adults, researchers found that more than 60% reported a history of as least one ACE.

The researchers set out to determine the effects of psychological distress and the association between adverse childhood experiences and current adult smoking.

They researchers found that women who had been physically or emotionally abused during childhood were 1.4 times more likely to smoke. In addition, women were 50% more likely to smoke if one of their parents were in prison during their childhood.

Dr. Tara Strine, who conducted the study, explained that psychological distress increases the chances that both sexes will smoke.

Strine said:

“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. 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.

Our results show that, among women, an underlying mechanism that links ACEs to adult smoking is psychological distress, particularly among those who have suffered emotional or physical abuse or physical neglect as a child. These findings suggest that current smoking cessation campaigns and strategies may benefit from understanding the potential relationship between childhood trauma and subsequent psychological distress on the role of smoking particularly in women.”

Written by Grace Rattue