A study in the journal Biological Psychiatry provides the first evidence that prenatal exposure to the stress hormones glucocorticoids predicts smoking and nicotine dependence later in life among women. It also corroborates previous findings that when moms smoke while pregnant, their children are more likely to become smokers. The study, led by Laura Stroud, associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior based at Miriam Hospital, was a followup of more than 1,000 mother and child pairs who first became known to Brown University 40 years ago through the Collaborative Perinatal Project. Now researchers are following up via the New England Family Study.
“These findings further demonstrate the value of long-term longitudinal studies, such as the New England Family Study, to identify the early and potentially preventable origins of a host of adult health concerns, including nicotine dependence,” said Stephen Buka, chair of epidemiology at Brown University and senior author of the study.
“These findings underscore the importance of smoking cessation efforts during pregnancy. They also support the value of targeted smoking cessation efforts later in life, where more intense efforts may be warranted for those with a history of family smoking including prenatal exposure.”