Racial/ethnic and gender differences in smoking in early middle adulthood


Woo, Juhee; Lawrence, Elizabeth; & Mollborn, Stefanie (2022). Racial/ethnic and gender differences in smoking in early middle adulthood. SSM - Population Health. vol. 18 , PMCID: PMC9149197


Research has documented important differences in smoking rates across race/ethnicity, gender, and age. Much of the research has either focused on smoking initiation among adolescents or cessation among adults, but little is known about racial/ethnic patterns in intermittent and daily smoking across young and early middle adulthood. We therefore use the life course perspective to identify how racial/ethnic and gender differences in smoking unfold across adulthood. Analyses investigate whether racial/ethnic and gender differences exist in the likelihood of daily smoking in early middle adulthood and whether these disparities persist after the inclusion of adolescent and early midlife sociodemographic characteristics and young adult smoking patterns. Descriptive statistics and multivariate binary logistic regression analyses employ recent data from a nationally representative sample of adults using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health; N = 8,506). We find evidence that life course patterns of smoking differ across race/ethnicity and gender subgroups. In early middle adulthood (ages 33–44), White women are more likely to smoke daily than Black or Hispanic women. In contrast, there are no significant differences between White and Black men, but White men are more likely to smoke daily than Hispanic men. These racial/ethnic differences are no longer significant for men when previous smoking is controlled, suggesting that early young adult smoking plays an important role in the development of smoking disparities across race/ethnicity. Further, we find that young adult intermittent smoking is associated with daily smoking in early midlife, and this relationship is stronger for Black, compared to White, men and women. Although Black women display lower odds of daily smoking in early midlife compared to White women, they exhibit a higher risk of transitioning from intermittent to daily smoking. These results highlight the importance of considering a greater diversity of life course patterns in smoking across race/ethnicity and gender in future research and policies.





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Journal Article

Journal Title

SSM - Population Health


Woo, Juhee
Lawrence, Elizabeth
Mollborn, Stefanie

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