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“Research is starting to show how vaping affects young people's physical and mental health," said Dr. Teresa To, a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto.
"Our previous research has shown that those who vape are more likely to suffer an asthma attack. In this study we were particularly interested in the relationship between vaping, mental health and quality of life among young people,” To said in a news release from the European Respiratory Society.
For the new research, investigators used the data from the Canadian Health Measures Surveys, a national survey that included 905 people between 15 and 30 years of age. About 13% said they had used e-cigarettes.
Researchers found that young people who vape were more likely to be physically active but were also more likely to report experiencing extreme chronic stress in their lives.
“Chronic stress can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. It's important for young people experiencing chronic stress to be given support early on to help them avoid resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms like vaping or smoking,” To said. “Vaping is not an effective way to cope with stress, but stress and anxiety can trigger vape cravings, and make it harder for a user to quit.”
It's also possible that another factor led to an increase in both stress and vaping, the authors said. However, they noted that their research did take into account other factors that influence stress, such as income, alcohol consumption and health conditions like asthma and diabetes.
“We do not know why young people using e-cigarettes tend to be more physically active, but it could be that they are trying to control their weight with exercise and believe vaping could help,” To said.
The study also found that young people who vape had lower risks of some signs of ill health, such as high blood pressure, although these findings did not reach statistical significance.
“At the time of the study, this group of young people had good physical health overall; however, we need to study the effects of e-cigarettes in the longer term to understand their impact on young people's health. We know that stress induces oxidative stress and inflammation in the body and these play an important role in the risk of developing chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” To added.
The study is being presented by To this week at a meeting of the European Respiratory Society, in Milan, Italy.
“Vaping is still relatively new, but the numbers of children and young people using e-cigarettes are rising rapidly. We need more research on the impacts of vaping, but we also need to raise awareness of the harms of using e-cigarettes and provide support to help young people avoid or quit vaping,” said Dr. Elif Dagli, a member of the respiratory society's tobacco control committee. She was not involved in the research.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded the study. Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the risks of e-cigarettes.
SOURCE: European Respiratory Society, news release, Sept. 11, 2023
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