You are here

Smoking During Pregnancy

Smoking during Pregnancy Can Lead to Depression in Children

Published December 24,  2013

A new research reveals an interesting fact that, children born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy are unhappy, and could be depressed. The findings were reported through a ‘Birth Cohort Study’ conducted in Brazil.

It has been demonstrated that people who show lower levels of happiness, and well-being are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases. Smoking during pregnancy can show adverse psychosocial effects in offspring. Therefore, Menezes and team performed a study to assess the effect of parental smoking during pregnancy and offspring happiness at age 18.

The study involved 5,249 participants (women) who answered a questionnaire that included information on smoking during pregnancy by mother and/or father. Out of the total, one third of mothers reported having smoked during pregnancy and 4.6 percent reported smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day. The children born to these women were followed up to their adulthood. The scientists were able to locate 4,106 children after 18 years, born to the women who had participated in the study. The adolescents were administered various scales, and questionnaire for measuring happiness and depression respectively.

After obtaining the data from children, the scientists observed that the prevalence of offspring happiness decreased, where as depression increased, as smoking in pregnancy increased. Interestingly, smoking by the partner (father) was also associated with decreased offspring happiness. Adolescents whose mothers and fathers had smoked during pregnancy were 21 percent and 14 percent less likely to be happy, compared to adolescents whose parents did not smoke. Since only maternal smoking was associated with depression, the scientists believe that there could be a direct biological pathway between tobacco smoke exposure in utero and depression in adolescence.

Another study conducted in the past has reported that adults whose mothers had smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day during the last trimester of pregnancy had poor quality of life than those whose mothers were non-smokers. Evidence also reveals that three year old children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy, showed poor development of language, higher activity level, fearfulness, and decreased ability to get along with peers.

Considering the available evidence, smoking during pregnancy appears to be associated with low levels of happiness and depression in children. Since smoking is a preventable risk factor, implementation of public policies that encourage avoiding smoking during pregnancy could improve the mental health of the children.


  1. Menezes AMB, Murray J. Happiness and Depression in Adolescence after Maternal Smoking during Pregnancy: Birth Cohort Study. PLoS ONE 8(11): e80370.


Scroll to top