There are plenty of health reasons to consider stopping smoking but still it remains a regular habit for many people. Nicotine found in tobacco is an addictive substance that can cause physical symptoms when you first quit and can make quitting more challenging. Fortunately, these withdrawal symptoms fade over time and there are products to help you take the edge off during this time. Many also associate smoking with a stress or anxiety reducer, which makes the idea of quitting stressful and anxiety-filled.
Researchers from the United Kingdom, wanted to determine the impact of smoking on mental health factors such as depression or anxiety. The review, published in the British Medical Journal, found that smoking cessation was associated with better mental health scores than continued smoking.
The systematic review included 26 studies that had measured mental health factors in smokers and those that quit smoking. Surveys delivered for the trials included measurements of anxiety, depression, psychological quality of life, and stress. They were delivered before the trials and varied follow up points from 6 weeks to 9 years.
Compared to participants that continued smoking, those that quit smoking had:
There was no difference in the benefits in participants with or without psychiatric disorders.
A systematic review is considered a reliable form of research because it combines several smaller studies. The higher the number of participants the more reliable the results may be. However, the systematic review is only as reliable as the studies that were included. In this case, the review included observational studies. These studies can not determine cause and effect because of their design, but can point out some possible connections. Although this trial can not confirm mental health benefits with smoking cessation it can suggest there may be one more reason to quit smoking.
This trial provides yet another benefit of quitting smoking. Unfortunately, knowledge of benefits alone does not making quitting happen but perhaps eliminating what you think are downsides of quitting may help. Talk to your doctor about tools to help decrease physical withdrawal symptoms from nicotine such as patches, nicotine gum, or medications. Keep in mind that the process may be a little rough in the first few days but in the end you may find yourself in a better mood.
National Cancer Institute
Tobacco Information and Prevention Source (TIPS) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Taylor G, et al. Change in Mental Health After Smoking Cessation: Systematic Review and Meta Analysis. BMJ 2014;348:g1151.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 2/26/2014