Effects of cumulative stress and impulsivity on smoking status

Emily B. Ansell, Peihua Gu, Keri Tuit, Rajita Sinha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Objective The stress-vulnerability model of addiction predicts that environmental factors, such as cumulative stress, will result in individual adaptations that decrease self-control, increase impulsivity, and increase risk for addiction. Impulsivity and cumulative stress are risk factors for tobacco smoking that are rarely examined simultaneously in research. Methods We examined the indirect and direct effects of cumulative adversity in a community sample consisting of 291 men and women who participated in an assessment of cumulative stress, self-reported impulsivity, and smoking history. Data were analyzed using bootstrapping techniques to estimate indirect effects of stress on smoking via impulsivity. Results Cumulative adversity is associated with smoking status via direct effects and indirect effects through impulsivity scores. Additional models examining specific types of stress indicate contributions of traumatic stress and recent life events as well as chronic relationship stressors. Conclusions Overall, cumulative stress is associated with increased risk of smoking via increased impulsivity and via pathways independent of impulsivity. These findings support the stress-vulnerability model and highlight the utility of mediation models in assessing how, and for whom, cumulative stress increases risk of current cigarette smoking. Increasing self-control is a target for interventions with individuals who have experienced cumulative adversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)200-208
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • adversity
  • cumulative stress
  • impulsivity
  • smoking
  • tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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