Washington: Adult women whose mothers had increased levels of stress hormones while they were pregnant are likelier to become addicted to nicotine, a new study has revealed.
The 40-year longitudinal study provides the first evidence that prenatal exposure to the class of stress hormones known as glucocorticoids predicts nicotine dependence later in life - but only for daughters.
It also confirms previous research that babies born to moms who smoked when pregnant have an increased risk of nicotine addiction in adulthood.
The study found that effects of maternal stress hormones and maternal smoking in pregnancy were additive in predicting nicotine addiction in adult daughters.
Lead author Laura Stroud, Ph.D., from the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital, said that their study suggests that maternal smoking and high stress hormones-often linked to high stress and adverse social conditions-represent a 'double-hit' in terms of increasing an offspring's risk for nicotine addiction as an adult.
Stroud said that as mothers who smoke are often more stressed and living in adverse conditions- these findings represent a public health concern and highlight the need to help smoking moms quit and reduce stress levels and improve social conditions for poor pregnant mothers.
Associations between prenatal exposure to both glucocorticoids - particularly cortisol - and tobacco smoke emerged only for daughters, which Stroud says it consistent with some recent research findings.
For the study, Stroud and colleagues studied 1,086 pairs of mothers and their adult children (59 percent female) from the New England Family Study, a 40-year longitudinal follow-up of the Collaborative Perinatal Project based at Brown University.
The findings published online by the journal Biological Psychiatry.