Tobacco smoking and mental disorders in Australian adolescents

David Lawrence, Sarah E. Johnson, Francis Mitrou, Sharon Lawn, Michael Sawyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: This study aimed to (1) examine the strength of the association between mental disorders/mental health problems, risk behaviours and tobacco smoking among Australian adolescents, (2) compare rates of tobacco smoking among Australian adolescents with major depressive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and/or conduct disorder in 2013/14 vs 1998, and (3) identify the extent to which an association between tobacco smoking and mental health problems among adolescents can be attributed to non-mental health risk factors. Methods: The study utilised data from the first (1998) and second (2013/14) child and adolescent components of the National Surveys of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Both surveys identified nationally representative samples of Australian young people aged 4–17 years, living in private dwellings. Information was collected from parents and 13- to 17-year-olds about mental disorders, mental health problems, risk behaviours and tobacco smoking. Results: In the 2013/14 survey, the rate of current tobacco smoking among those with a mental disorder was 20% compared to 5% in those without a mental disorder. Rates were highest for young people with conduct disorder (50%), major depressive disorder (24%) and anxiety disorders (19%). In 2013/14, 38% of current tobacco smokers had a mental disorder and 32% reported self-harm and/or suicidal ideation vs 10% and 5%, respectively, among adolescents who had never smoked. Females with mental disorders or reporting self-harm or suicidal ideation had higher rates of current smoking than males. Other significant factors associated with current smoking included school-related problems, binge eating and having had more than one sexual partner. Conclusion: While smoking rates in 13- to 17-year-olds with mental disorders had declined since 1998, the strength of the association between mental disorders and smoking had increased, especially among females. Our findings highlight the need to address the tobacco smoking among adolescents with mental disorders, particularly females.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-177
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


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