Kick the smoking habit, better mental health?
According to a new study published in the British Medical Journal, quitting smoking can lead to better psychological quality of life.
The physical dangers of smoking are widely known – smoking increases the risk of cancer along with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases – but the connection between smoking and mental health is less clear, according to researchers. Smokers who report wanting to quit often cite reduced stress and anxiety as the benefits of smoking.
“Both quantitative and qualitative analyses indicate that regular smokers report smoking cigarettes to alleviate emotional problems and feelings of depression and anxiety, to stabilize mood, and for relaxation as well as relieving stress,” say the study authors.
However, this commonly held belief may be a misinterpretation. The irritability, anxiety, and depression smokers experience while not smoking are a result of nicotine withdrawal, according to study leaders. These symptoms are relieved after returning to smoking, creating the perception that smoking has positive psychological benefits.
“My experience has been that many patients who feel that they relieve stress because of smoking are simply feeling better because they have nicotine addiction,” said Dr. Hampton, adding that smoking is the number one cause of preventable death.
Dr. Hampton suggests an additional mental benefit that can be gained from giving up smoking as people begin the process of quitting.
“I think the idea of not smoking can also be a stress reliever because you know you’re doing something that is going to increase your chances of living a longer life,” he said. “I think that really can help to mentally make you feel better about yourself.”
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