A new study based on an Indian survey has found that domestic violence is one of the stressors that lead to smoking.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found a link between domestic violence and adult smoking.
Harmful effects of tobacco use are well known, but there has been little research looking at the stressors linked to tobacco use among Indians.
In this study, domestic violence was found to be one of the main stressors behind smoking.
Domestic violence is a serious problem in India. Some 40 percent of Indian women reported being slapped, kicked, hit or beaten during their marriages.
Researchers, led by lead author Leland Ackerson, and senior author S. V. Subramanian, associate professor in the Department of Society, Human Development and Health, hypothesized that smoking may act as a 'stress reliever' in households that experience domestic violence. In fact, Indians who smoke or chew tobacco cite stress relief as one of the reasons they begin using and continue to use tobacco.
In order to see if domestic violence was associated with tobacco use in India, the researchers used data from the National Family Health Survey, a representative cross-sectional survey administered in India during 1998-1999. The samples included 89,092 women and 278,977 family members aged 15 and older.
It was found that, for women who had ever been married, 19 percent reported incidents of abuse; 85 percent of abused women reported abuse by their husbands.
The study found that women who reported past and current abuse had 20 perecnt-40 percent increased odds of tobacco use compared with women reporting no abuse, even after taking into account factors such as income and education level.
Another finding was that smoking risk increased for any adult in households where domestic violence was prevalent, regardless of whether they were personally a victim, a perpetrator or neither.
"This is the first study to show a link between domestic violence and tobacco use in a developing country. It is a powerful piece of evidence that we found this same relationship in a place where poverty is endemic that had previously been shown only in wealthy nations," Ackerson said.
The study highlights yet another negative outcome of the social problem of domestic violence.
"This research is important in terms of both tobacco control and the campaign against domestic violence. It reinforces the notion that addressing the psychological and social context is key in the fight against tobacco. Additionally, our findings provide further proof of the negative effects of domestic violence, evidence which will hopefully aid those working to address this problem," Subramanian added.
The study appears in the December 11, 2007 issue of the journal Tobacco Control.