Does delay discounting predict maladaptive health and financial behaviors in smokers?

Objective: Excessive delay discounting, the rapid devaluation of future rewards, is often demonstrated by individuals suffering from substance use disorders, including chronic cigarette smokers. This constricted temporal window not only produces increased valuation of immediate unhealthy rewards (e.g., cigarettes) but also a decreased valuation of both future healthy rewards (e.g., increased energy) and future consequences (e.g., lung cancer). Moreover, in addition to cigarettes, smokers tend to engage in other behaviors that elicit immediate rewards and negative future consequences such as overconsuming alcohol, unhealthy eating, physical inactivity, and/or irresponsible spending. The present study sought to determine whether smokers’ discounting rate would predict the frequency of engagement in other poor health and financial behaviors, independent of cigarette smoking. Method: A total of 303 daily smokers were asked to complete a delay discounting task and then answer how frequently they typically engaged in health and finance related behaviors. Results: A structural equation model was used to group the questions into highly significantly latent factors of “Drug Use,” “Finances,” “Fitness,” “Food,” “Health,” “Household Savings,” “Personal Development,” and “Safe Driving.” When regressed on the model, delay discounting significantly predicted engagement all of the factors, except “Safe Driving,” independent of smoking status. Conclusion: In sum, these findings highlight delay discounting as a useful metric for predicting whether individuals’ engagement in variety of healthy physical and financial behaviors, as a function of their temporal window. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)