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Passive smoking as a risk factor for dementia and cognitive impairment: systematic review of observational studies

  • Lucy E. Stirland (a1), Chris I. O'Shea (a2) and Tom C. Russ (a1) (a3)
ABSTRACT Background:

Smoking is a well-established risk factor for dementia, but the effects of passive smoking are unclear. We aimed to examine links between passive smoking and dementia or cognitive impairment.


We searched seven medical research databases: MEDLINE, Web of Science (Core Collection), Cochrane, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Scopus, and CINAHL Plus. Studies were included if they examined measures of passive smoking and either cognitive impairment or dementia.


Of 1,425 records found, nine papers of varying methodologies were included after screening against inclusion criteria. Eight papers reported weak associations between passive smoking and either cognitive impairment or dementia. One paper only found this association alongside carotid artery stenosis. The papers’ quality was variable, with only two deemed high quality.


There is limited weak observational evidence linking passive smoking with an increased risk of cognitive impairment or dementia. However, the studies were methodologically diverse and of inconsistent quality, preventing firm conclusions.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Dr Lucy E. Stirland, Centre for Dementia Prevention, University of Edinburgh, Kennedy Tower, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh EH10 5HF, UK. Phone: +0044-131-537-6257. Email:
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International Psychogeriatrics
  • ISSN: 1041-6102
  • EISSN: 1741-203X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-psychogeriatrics
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