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Studies Highlight Influence of Sadness on Addictive Behavior

January 20, 2020

A series of studies conducted at Harvard University sheds new light on how emotions contribute to addictive behavior. The results suggest that sadness, more than any other negative emotion, increases the craving to smoke cigarettes.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the studies included a national survey of more than 10,000 people and various experimental conditions. The national survey found that sadness, but not other negative emotions such as fear, anger or shame, predicted both current smoking and 20-year relapse to cigarette use.

Another pair of laboratory tests found that sadness increased impatience for cigarette use, with experimentally induced sadness increasing the volume and duration of cigarette puffs.

The studies were led by researchers at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, who said the findings could have important public policy implications. They stated in a news release that “current anti-smoking ad campaigns could be redesigned to avoid images that trigger sadness and thus unintentionally increase cigarette cravings among smokers.”

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