Impulsivity related personality trait and cigarette smoking in adults: a meta-analysis using the UPPS-P model of impulsivity and reward sensitivity

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Aims: Although there is considerable evidence of an association between impulsivity and cigarette smoking, the magnitude of this association varies across studies. Impulsivity comprises several discrete traits which may influence cigarette use in different ways. The present meta-analysis aims to describe the direction, magnitude and variability of the relationship between impulsivity and both cigarette smoking and nicotine dependence in adults, and to delineate differences in effect between specific impulsivity-related traits, namely lack of premeditation, lack of perseverance, sensation seeking, negative urgency, positive urgency and reward sensitivity.

Methods: Ninety-seven studies were meta-analysed using random effects models to examine the relationship between impulsivity-related traits and cigarette smoking and nicotine dependence. In addition, a number of demographic and methodological variables were assessed as potential moderators.

Results: Impulsivity was associated with an increased likelihood of being a smoker than a non-smoker (r=0.19) and greater nicotine dependence (r=0.12). Cigarette smoking and nicotine dependence were significantly associated with all impulsivity-related traits except reward sensitivity. Lack of premeditation and positive urgency showed the largest associations with cigarette smoking (r=0.20, r=0.23 respectively), while positive urgency showed the largest association with nicotine dependence (r=0.23). Study design moderated associations between lack of premeditation and lack of perseverance and smoking, with larger effects found in cross-sectional compared to prospective studies.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that specific impulsivity-related traits differentially relate to cigarette smoking and nicotine dependence. Understanding the complexity of impulsivity-related traits in relation to smoking can help to identify potential smokers and could inform smoking cessation treatment plans.


Dr Andrew Cooper, Goldsmiths , University of London, 8 Lewisham Way, New Cross, London SE14 6NW, UK Dr Kaidy Stautz, Behaviour and Health Research Unit, Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, Box 113 Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Cambridge CB2 0SR, UK

Conflicts of interest:

No conflict of interest


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Ms Dimitra Kale