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The importance of resilience and stress to maintaining smoking abstinence and cessation: a qualitative study in Australia with people diagnosed with depression

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This study explored stress in relation to smoking and how non-smokers (never-smoked and ex-smokers) are ‘resilient’ to smoking in a population where there is a high prevalence of smoking (people diagnosed with depression). In-depth oral history interviews were conducted with 34 adult participants from metropolitan Adelaide, and who were medically diagnosed with depression. Participants were recruited according to their smoking status (currently smoking, ex-smoker, and never-smoked). Smoking was taken-up and maintained for a number of reasons that included perceived high levels of stress. Resilience to stress in relation to smoking was also a major theme. Non-smoking participants tended to be more resilient to stress. Ex-smokers were able to quit for a number of varied reasons during critical transition points in their lives. The never-smoked participants reported successful strategies to cope with stress but not all of them were necessarily healthy. There was often interplay between external factors and the individual’s internal properties that led to a building or an erosion of resilience. Smokers and ex-smokers have indicated a strong relationship between stress and tobacco use. Ex-smokers and the never-smoked participants have demonstrated how being ‘resilient’ to stress can be important to smoking abstinence. The finding that external factors can interact with internal properties to build resilience in relation to stress and smoking is important for policy and practice.

Keywords: mental health; resilience; stress; tobacco smoking

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Discipline of Public Health, Flinders University, South Australia, Australia 2: Flinders Human Behaviour and Health Research Unit, Flinders University, South Australia, Australia 3: School of Psychology, University of South Australia, South Australia, Australia 4: School of Psychology and Social Science, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, Australia

Publication date: May 1, 2011


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