Monday 10 January 2022

Marginalised outgroup is marginalised, new study reveals

This study would be funny if the subject matter wasn't so grim.


Smoking is often colloquially considered “social”. However, the actual relationship of smoking with current and future social isolation and loneliness is unclear. We therefore examined these relationships over a 12-year follow-up. Methods

In this cohort study, we used a nationally representative sample of community dwelling adults aged 50 years and over from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (N=8780) (45% male, mean(SD) age 67(10) years. We examined associations of self-reported smoking status at baseline assessment, with social isolation (low social contact, social disengagement, domestic isolation), and loneliness (3-item UCLA loneliness scale), measured at baseline, and follow-up at 4, 8 and 12 years, using ordinary least squares regression models.


At baseline, smokers were more likely to be lonely (coef.=0·111, 95% CI 0·025 – 0·196) and socially isolated than non-smokers, having less frequent social interactions with family and friends (coef.= 0·297, 95%CI 0·148 – 0·446), less frequent engagement with community and cultural activities (coef.= 0·534, 95%CI 0·421 – 0·654), and being more likely to live alone (Odds Ratio =1·400, 95%CI 1·209 – 1·618). Smoking at baseline was associated with larger reductions in social contact (coef.=0·205, 95%CI 0·053 – 0·356, to 0·297, 95%CI 0·140 – 0·455), increases in social disengagement (coef.=0·168, 95%CI 0·066 – 0·270, to coef.=0·197, 95%CI 0·087 – 0·307), and increases in loneliness (coef.=0·105, 95%CI 0·003 – 0·207), at 4-year follow-up) over time.

Who could have guessed that a concerted, state-led campaign of ostracism and demonisation in which the law was used to drive smokers out of all indoor venues and a large number of outdoor venues would have led to the outgroup being socially isolated? I for one am stunned.

The discussion section is amazing. 

These findings have important policy implications. Firstly, they further strengthen the justification for anti-smoking legislation

That's one interpretation, I guess.

Adding to other research on the health impacts of smoking, our results suggest that smoking is potentially detrimental to aspects of psychosocial health.

I mean, it might be, but a more obvious inference is that smoking bans are detrimental to aspects of psychosocial health, something the late Frank Davis spent the last thirteen years of his life 'banging on about'. A simple way to test the proposition would be to see whether smokers felt socially isolated in the decades before the government decided to make an example of them. I know of no evidence that they did. 
Or we could study people in the dwindling number of countries where smoking is not yet treated as being akin to paedophilia and see whether they have 'less frequent engagement with community and cultural activities'. I suspect not, but further research would be welcome.

That is not the kind of research the authors have in mind, however.

Although causality cannot be assumed, and further research is warranted, the idea held by some that smoking might be prosocial appears to be a misconception, with serious implications for health and wellbeing throughout the lifespan.

As I have said before, 'public health' activists are the kind of people who would put a brick through your window and then try to sell you double glazing. For years they have shed crocodile tears over tobacco sales leading to secondary poverty, as if it were not the direct result of the exorbitant taxation they campaigned for. Now they are claiming, in effect, that smoking causes loneliness. 

And don't expect self-awareness to emerge any time soon. Guess what their solution is?

These findings emphasise the intersection of two major public health priorities which requires further attention. In policy terms it provides a further basis to increase efforts to achieve Smokefree society.

That's right. More smoking bans.

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