Childhood exposure to parental smoking linked to poor memory in midlife

London: Exposure to parental smoking in childhood and adolescence has been linked with poorer learning ability and memory in midlife.

According to the study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, with the ageing population, cognitive deficits such as difficulties in learning and memory are becoming more common.

Active smoking is known to be detrimental to cognitive function and to contribute to the occurrence of cognitive deficits. Similar short-term associations have been observed for second-hand smoking.

Results from a longitudinal Finnish study showed that the harmful effects of childhood second-hand smoking exposure may carry over to midlife learning ability and memory function.

“Previous studies have focused on adulthood exposure or on the short-term effects of childhood exposure, whereas this study brings novel information on the long-term associations between secondhand smoking exposure in childhood and cognitive function in midlife,” said study researcher from the University of Turku in Finland.

The results of this study highlight that the focus of prevention of secondhand smoking exposure should be on children and adolescents in order to promote brain health in adulthood.

In addition to protecting children and adolescents from starting active smoking, attention should be paid to their secondhand smoking exposure at home and elsewhere.

For the findings, the cognitive performance of over 2,000 participants was measured at the age of 34-49 years.

The results showed that participants who had been exposed to parental smoking in childhood had worse learning ability and poorer memory in midlife than those participants whose parents did not smoke in their presence.

This association was present regardless of the participants’ own smoking either in adolescence or adulthood.

The difference in cognitive performance between those participants who had been exposed to parental smoking and those with non-smoking parents was equivalent to the difference caused by up to five years of ageing, the study said.

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