Thesis focused on research of relationships between addiction

Age and race in contribution to the relationships between mental health, income and nicotine


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Charles Long




The study of the relationship between nicotine addiction and mental health is critical for lowering the prevalence of both in society today. The first step to begin understanding the relationships between these is taking a look into the risk factors associated with them. This study looked at the relationships between income, feeling a sense of control over cigarette use as representative of nicotine addiction, and number of days feeling nervous in the last thirty days as representative of poor mental health within the different risk groups of race (white, black, Native American and Hispanic) and age (18-25 and 26-35) to determine increased risk for developing an addiction to nicotine or problems of mental health. A SEM model was created for each race and age group studied to analyze the pathway coefficients between income, nicotine addiction, and mental health to determine the strength of the relationship between these variables. A pathway coefficient close to 1 or -1 represented stronger relationships between variables while a pathway coefficient close to 0 represented a weak relationship. While all of the SEM models were significant as an overall model, the pathway coefficients mostly represented a weak relationship between the relationships of nicotine addiction and mental health. The Native American group displayed the strongest relationship between feeling a sense of control over cigarette use as representative of nicotine addiction and number of days feeling nervous in the last thirty days with a pathway coefficient of 0.18. The relationships between nicotine addiction and mental health were not strong in the different age groups or most of the races, but in Native Americans.



Nicotine abuse has been a topical conversation around the world due to its prevalence and impact on many individual’s lives. Around 27% of individuals 12 years and older in the United States stated that they used nicotine in the past year in at 2018 study (SAMHSA, 2018). Nicotine products have even developed other methods of nicotine delivery, including electronic vaping products, that make nicotine much more accessible and enjoyable (Berg, 2014).


Life cycle stages are associated with the start of nicotine use due to different years of life that are associated with increased stress. The use of nicotine increases the levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor in the hippocampus of the brain which is known to induce acute stress (Ghasemzadeh, 2020). Therefore, nicotine lowers stress immediately after use giving the individual a feeling of reward.


Younger adults are characterized by experiencing a time of high pressure as many individuals in this age group are experiencing stress that they’ve never experienced before. From leaving the house from which individuals grew up to expectations of college to struggles of obtaining income to support their lives, younger adults are at higher risk for taking and using different drugs, including nicotine (Berg, 2015). The variable of race also contributes to the stressors that impact nicotine use and dependence. Among younger adult groups in the United States, African Americans have expressed some of the highest rates of nicotine use (Harris, 2006).


Nicotine use and addiction is also associated with anxiety disorders, as a result of poor mental health (Moylan, 2012). The brain anti-reward and reward pathways involving the midbrain and mesolimbic system have a close association with the addiction from chemicals like nicotine (Gardner, 2011).  Nicotine addiction has negative effects on the emotional stability of the brain due to its alternation of the chemistry in the rewards pathways of the brain negatively affecting metal health over time (Simpson, 2020).


The internal and external problems that individuals face has been directly linked to nicotine and substance abuse (Moylan, 2012). The purpose of this research is to understand the relationships between mental health, nicotine abuse and income levels among different age groups and races in the United States. A stronger relationship between poor mental health, increased nicotine use and lower income groups among younger, minority groups would show an increased need for attention towards initiatives to prevent this trend in the United States. Understanding the relationships between mental health and nicotine abuse among different age groups and races in the United States is critical for decreasing anxiety and many other mental health risk factors around the world.


Materials and Methods


A structure equation model was be used to determine the existence of correlations between income on nicotine addiction risk factors, income on mental health indicators and mental health indicators on nicotine addiction risk factors. The nicotine addiction risk factors that were observed are: age when first smoked, feeling of control over smoking habits, times smoked in the last 30 days and nicotine dependence over the last 12 months. The mental health indicators that were tested are feelings of hopelessness, restlessness and nervousness over the last 30 days. The nicotine addiction risk factors and mental health indicators were chosen based off a previous study presented by BMC Med, which previously looked at the relationship between nicotine use and anxiety disorders (Moylan, 2012).

This study looks at the variables of income, nicotine addiction risk factors, mental health indicating variables and age groups 10-17, 18-24, and 25-34 years of age, collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Healthy from 2017-2018 (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Data Archive). As a result of a priori power analysis, 56,313 replicates were needed to give a likelihood of 0.05 for Type I error, 0.20 for Type II error and an very small effect size. Using a regression statistical analysis, the relationships between each categorical variable were tested for a correlation.

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