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Depression, Executive Function, Nicotine Dependence, Older Smoker, Rural Smokers



  1. Noonan, Devon PhD, MPH, FNP-BC
  2. Silva, Nikolas J. BSN, BS
  3. McClintock, Shawn M. PhD, MSCS
  4. Silva, Susan G. PhD


Introduction: Rural older adults are an underserved population with high rates of smoking and related morbidity and mortality. Age-related executive function deficits are common in older smokers; however, the association of depression and nicotine dependence on executive function has not been explored. This study addressed whether depression and nicotine dependence are related to executive dysfunction in rural older adult smokers.


Methods: The sample included 40 rural older adults recruited from two primary care clinics in North Carolina. Executive function was evaluated with the Behavioral Regulation Index (BRI), Metacognition Index, and Global Executive Composite (GEC) T scores from the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Adult. Nicotine dependence and depression symptoms were assessed using the Fagerstrom Test and Center for Epidemiologic Depression Scale-10, respectively. Analysis of variance was used to explore whether depression and/or nicotine dependence influences executive function. Nondirectional tests were performed with significance set at .10.


Results: Smokers who screened positive for depression had significantly greater executive dysfunction than those who did not (BRI: p = .0003, Metacognition Index: p < .0001, GEC: p < .0001), and moderate/high dependence was associated with greater executive function deficits compared with those with mild dependence (BRI: p = .0942). Together, depression and nicotine dependence explained 50% of the variability of the GEC overall scores.


Conclusions: Executive dysfunction is common in rural older adult smokers and associated with depression and nicotine dependence severity. Futures studies should test the relationship of executive function and smoking cessation in the older adult population as it may have implications for cessation in this population.