While many believe that quitting smoking may negatively impact their mental health, a new study from the Washington University School of Medicine suggests that quitting may be associated with improved mental health, even for those who struggle with mood problems or addiction. The study, “Smoking cessation is associated with lower rates of mood/anxiety and alcohol use disorders,” was published in the February 2014 issue of the journal of Psychological Medicine.
“Clinicians tend to treat the depression, alcohol dependence or drug problem first and allow patients to ‘self-medicate’ with cigarettes if necessary,” said lead investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD. “The assumption is that psychiatric problems are more challenging to treat and that quitting smoking may interfere with treatment.”
However, Cavazos-Rehg and her colleagues found that quitting smoking, or even cutting back significantly, was linked to improved mental health outcomes. To come to this finding, researchers examined data from the longitudinal National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol and Related Conditions, which surveyed individuals on their drinking, smoking and mental health during two interviews, which were conducted three years apart. Logistic regression was used to examine associations between cigarette smoking and status of addiction or mental health disorder among daily smokers.
What they found was that those individuals who had addiction or mood problems at the time of the first survey were far less likely to have those same problems at the time of the second interview if they had quit smoking. Further, those who did not have mood problems at the time of the first survey were far less likely to develop those problems later if they quit smoking.
“We don’t know if their mental health improves first and then they are more motivated to quit smoking or if quitting smoking leads to an improvement in mental health,” said Cavazos-Rehg. “But either way, our findings show a strong link between quitting and a better psychiatric outlook.”
These findings are promising, as many smokers believe that smoking relieves stress and improves their mood.