New moms who experience high levels of social stress (economic problems or feeling less in control over their own housing situation) are 2.5 times more likely to have no restriction or only a partial restriction on smoking in their homes, which may expose their infants to secondhand smoke and increase health risks, according to new research.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, identified statistically significant socio-demographic and socioeconomic trends on home smoking rules where an infant lives, but the underlying commonality was the level of stress the mother faced.
“Even if you take out all of those other factors, if you’re dealing with all of these notions of disadvantage that is tied up in low education and low income, you will see that if you can address the stressors, you are going to increase the amount of people who restrict smoking at home,” said lead author Dr. Jarron Saint Onge, a University of Kansas assistant professor of sociology.
“You can still say that stress is an independent risk on home smoking rules.”
For the study, researchers looked at data for 118,062 women who had recently given birth in the United States and participated in the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System from 2004 to 2010.
As anti-smoking sentiment in recent years has led to many restrictions on public smoking, the study found that it has influenced home smoking rules as well. Overall, only six percent of mothers in the survey reported having only a partial rule or no smoking rule at all, meaning 94 percent of mothers did not allow smoking in the home.
Controlling for other factors, mothers under the age of 20 were 34 percent more likely to have no or only a partial home smoking rule, compared with those ages 20-34. Similarly, non-Hispanic black mothers were 23 percent more likely to not fully ban smoke from the home compared to non-Hispanic white mothers.
The findings also identified certain maternal stressors that increased the risk of infants in certain groups to have exposure to secondhand smoke. For example, members of the higher risk groups reported facing significant stressors that compromise social control, self-efficacy, or power within a household context, and this could leave them feeling powerless to change more established smoking habits, said Saint Onge.
Furthermore, smoking, which is a health-compromising behavior, might also be a coping mechanism in itself for individuals with resource-limited social or environmental settings. The study shows how stress appears to have particularly strong effects for current smokers.
“Nobody wants to smoke around their child. So it’s these broader social forces that are at play. It’s about recognizing at what point are you compromised to forgo smoking rules in your household?” Saint Onge said.
“When it comes to smoking, everyone knows that smoking is bad. It’s just having the ability to do anything about it.”
“Clinicians could begin thinking about stress when they’re going through pre-pregnancy visits to identify stress early on or to identify risk groups early on and to identify home-smoking environments early on as well,” Saint Onge said.
Source: University of Kansas