Childhood exposure to parental smoking and midlife cognitive function: The Young Finns Study

Suvi P. Rovio, Jukka Pihlman, Katja Pahkala, Markus Juonala, Costan G. Magnussen, Niina Pitkänen, Ari Ahola-Olli, Pia Salo, Mika Kähönen, Nina Hutri-Kähönen, Terho Lehtimäki, Eero Jokinen, Tomi Laitinen, Leena Taittonen, Päivi Tossavainen, Jorma S.A. Viikari, Olli T. Raitakari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


We studied whether exposure to parental smoking in childhood/adolescence is associated with midlife cognitive function, leveraging data from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. A population-based cohort of 3,596 children/adolescents aged 3-18 years was followed between 1980 and 2011. In 2011, cognitive testing was performed on 2,026 participants aged 34-49 years using computerized testing. Measures of secondhand smoke exposure in childhood/adolescence consisted of parental self-reports of smoking and participants' serum cotinine levels. Participants were classified into 3 exposure groups: 1) no exposure (nonsmoking parents, cotinine <1.0 ng/mL); 2) hygienic parental smoking (1-2 smoking parents, cotinine <1.0 ng/mL); and 3) nonhygienic parental smoking (1-2 smoking parents, cotinine ≥1.0 ng/mL). Analyses adjusted for sex, age, family socioeconomic status, polygenic risk score for cognitive function, adolescent/adult smoking, blood pressure, and serum total cholesterol level. Compared with the nonexposed, participants exposed to nonhygienic parental smoking were at higher risk of poor (lowest quartile) midlife episodic memory and associative learning (relative risk (RR) = 1.38, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.08, 1.75), and a weak association was found for short-term and spatial working memory (RR = 1.25, 95% CI: 0.98, 1.58). Associations for those exposed to hygienic parental smoking were nonsignificant (episodic memory and associative learning: RR = 1.19, 95% CI: 0.92, 1.54; short-term and spatial working memory: RR = 1.10, 95% CI: 0.85, 1.34). We conclude that avoiding childhood/adolescence secondhand smoke exposure promotes adulthood cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1280-1291
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery
  • Cognitive function
  • Parental smoking
  • Passive smoking
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Tobacco smoke

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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