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Study Finds Young Vapers Are More Likely to Suffer From Anxiety 

A study entitled “Personality Risk Factors for Vape Use Among Young Adults1S. L. Evans and E. Alkan, “Personality Risk Factors for Vape Use amongst Young Adults and Its Consequences for Sleep and Mental Health,” Healthcare, vol. 12, no. 4, p. 423, Jan. 2024, doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare12040423 has strengthened the link between nicotine consumption and worsening mental health. The study, published on Feb 6th, 2024, has fueled the mounting concerns over youth vaping. 

316 participants aged 18-25 took part in the study. They were quizzed on mindfulness, rumination, self-compassion, anxiety, depression, and sleep quality. Authors Simon L. Evans and Erkan Alkan also explored potential personality traits linked to vape use. Some of the participants were vapers, and some were not. 

Here are the findings:

  • Vapers were more likely to be “evening types”
  • Vapers had significantly lower sleep quality
  • Vapers had significantly higher anxiety symptoms, alcohol use, and loneliness

Countless studies have been conducted on the link between nicotine and anxiety. One of these studies surveyed more than 2,500 people aged 13-24 and found that nicotine-only vapers were more likely to report anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, and suicidal thoughts compared to their vape-free peers2American Heart Association, “Depression & anxiety symptoms linked to vaping nicotine and THC in teens and young adults,” American Heart Association, Feb. 28, 2023. https://newsroom.heart.org/news/depression-anxiety-symptoms-linked-to-vaping-nicotine-and-thc-in-teens-and-young-adults.

Although Evans and Alkan admit that their findings are “novel”, they conclude that they also “point to specific cognitive/personality traits as vaping risk factors, which could inform intervention strategies.” But what can lawmakers and health professionals do with the knowledge that “evening types” are more likely to be vapers? 

Evans and Alkan argue that the correlation between nicotine consumption and lower sleep quality could be due to the “stimulative properties of nicotine”, but that “an inverse relationship is also possible since one study in adolescents showed that sleep deprivation increases vape use risk, perhaps to compensate for daytime dysfunction.”  

The study that Evans and Alkan referenced found that “adolescents who reported averaging less than six hours of sleep were at increased odds of reporting any likelihood of initiating END use in the next month.”3K. D. Holtz, A. A. Simkus, E. C. Twombly, M. L. Fleming, and N. I. Wanty, “Sleep deprivation and adolescent susceptibility to vaping in the United States,” Preventive Medicine Reports, vol. 26, p. 101756, Apr. 2022, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.101756This shows that nicotine is not necessarily to blame for sleep deprivation and that a young person might experience poor quality sleep before ever using an e-cigarette. 

The claim that young vapers are more likely to suffer from loneliness has also raised eyebrows. According to a 2018 Ipsos survey of 20,096 adults, young adults aged 18-25 are the loneliest segment of the population4“Over Half of Americans Report Feeling Like No One Knows Them Well,” Ipsos. https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/us-loneliness-index-report

This problem only worsened during the pandemic, which became apparent when Harvard Graduate School of Education commissioned a study that surveyed 950 Americans. It found that 61% of young people aged 18-25 report high levels of loneliness5R. Weissbourd, M. Batanova, V. Lovison, and E. Torres, “Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It,” Making Caring Common, Feb. 2021. https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/reports/loneliness-in-america. Loneliness is an epidemic, especially among young people, but more research needs to be conducted until we can definitively link it to e-cigarette use.  

As Evans and Alkan noted, their findings are novel. From our own research, we know that correlation doesn’t always equal causation, a scientific principle that we have seen flouted again and again in new e-cigarette studies. 
We have to wonder whether the emergence of more studies is a result of the hysteria surrounding youth initiation of e-cigarettes, despite an almost 4% decrease in high school and middle school students using vape products from 2022-20236O. of the Commissioner, “National Survey Shows Drop in E-Cigarette Use Among High School Students,” FDA, Nov. 02, 2023. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/national-survey-shows-drop-e-cigarette-use-among-high-school-students#:~:text=The%20findings%2C%20which%20were%20collected.


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Lexi Burgess
Lexi Burgess
I keep my ear to the ground to report on Vaping, emerging health research, and new vape legislation. When the ever-changing landscape of the vape industry isn’t on my mind, I play badminton and read old horror novels.
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