A new study from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research is showing that women are more likely to smoke during pregnancy if they live in areas where socio-economic status is lower, and where smoking is more socially accepted. This means that women might not actually be thinking about the danger or harm that could be caused by things like smoking with pregnant, since it is almost like that saying “well if everyone else is going to do it, why not?”
This study will appear in the upcoming issue of Social Science and Medicine, and it examined how local factors helped influence health decisions. The lead author of the study was Heather O’Connell, who is a postdoctoral research fellow at Rice’s Kinder Institute found out that contextual factors, like socio-economic status and prevalence of smoking are related to women’s individual odds of smoking during pregnancy. This is suggesting that your environment plays a huge role in shaping your health behaviors. Local resources and social acceptability of smoking are important when it comes to whether or not someone chooses to smoke, and this includes even pregnant women, who should not be smoking at all during this important time. The study showed that the countries with the highest values on socio-economic status had lower odds of women smoking during pregnancy, which is a pretty good sign though. A woman’s odds of smoking during pregnancy are higher for every increase in the average percentage of pregnant woman smoking in the neighboring counties the study also found. The odds increase by about 2.5 times, which is pretty significant, and is shows how social acceptability plays a part in the decision to smoke while pregnant also.
There have been previous studies that have shown how social acceptability affects smoking, but this study helped use new evidence and methods to combine the idea that places and position of those places play a role in whether or not someone decides to smoke while pregnant. Obviously, in places where fewer people smoke, there will be less of a chance of maternal smoking. For this study, data from the American Community Survey was used, which ran from 2005 to 2009. There was also data available from women who had given birth during that time period as well. O’Connell said that this data was very ideal for this project since it had already been used in previous studies, which helped identify contextual associations involved in maternal smoking. The researchers hope that this study will spur even more studies about how living in certain locations can impact health behaviors, including and not including maternal smoking. Other health behaviors such as exercise and eating right are also important, as well as finding out which types of people are more likely to get which diseases based on location are all studies researchers hope will come up in the future.
The researchers also said this study should really be a wake up call for people to begin thinking about how their neighborhoods and environments impact the health decisions and personal choices they make in their lives. We all have a choice, whether it is smoking while pregnant or choosing to begin using alcohol or drugs, but this study shows that there are factors that can help us decide to go the wrong way instead of the right way. That could be tied into certain locations having less jobs and there being more of a feeling of depression or oppression, which is often a lower-class neighborhood situation. This study essentially shows that if you have a habit that you want to break, sometimes you need to think about the environment around you and the neighborhood you are living in, and question whether or not your behavior is also acceptable in that location. If it is, then you might need to think about getting out of that neighborhood in order to better your own health. It is like with anything else in life, as far as if you do not like what you see around you, then sometimes you have to just move away from it in order to keep yourself as healthy and sane as possible. Obviously though, it is not that easy to just get up and move away if you recognize the social acceptability of bad behaviors in your area, but this study should at least make you think about how much better your life could be if you were able to get away from the neighborhoods that seem to encourage bad behaviors, such as smoking while pregnant. The researchers hope that new studies will also be what is needed to really show people that many factors determine your health, and it’s not just about you or your family history, and hopefully people will begin heeding that advice if more studies come out to support this study and other similar studies like it. It will be interesting to see if this theory also plays into the risk of having a sedentary lifestyle over an active lifestyle, such as in locations where there are sports teams and a lot of community centers.