New Study: Quitting Smoking Also Makes You Happier

Monday, December 06, 2010


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Everyone knows that quitting smoking is good for your health. But now, a new Brown University study suggests that it will also make you happier.

The study bucks the conventional wisdom that smokers turn to cigarettes to ease anxiety and depression. The study also defuses the common fear among smokers that kicking the habit is a “grim psychological sacrifice” necessary for their long-term health.

False assumption: smoking can be an antidepressant

“The assumption has often been that people might smoke because it has antidepressant properties and that if they quit it might unmask a depressive episode,” said Christopher Kahler, a research professor of community health at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown. “What’s surprising is that at the time when you measure smokers’ mood, even if they’ve only succeeded for a little while, they are already reporting less symptoms of depression.”

The study, which was conducted in conjunction with The Miriam Hospital and the University of Southern California, focused on a group of 236 men and women who were given nicotine patches and counseling on how to quit. They also had to commit to a quit date. The participants were tested for the symptoms of depression one week before the quit date and then at regular intervals afterwards—at two, eight, 16, and 28 weeks later.

Mental health benefits to quiting

Those who quit and remained smoke-free—just 33 people in the group—were the happiest participants, according to Kahler. On the other hand, the 99 participants who never successfully stopped smoking were the unhappiest people in the study.

Kahler says the study shows that smoking is hardly an effective way of dealing with negative feelings and depression. Rather, he says it demonstratives the opposite: that quitting helps ease depression.

“If they quit smoking their depressive symptoms go down and if they relapse, their mood goes back to where they were,” Kahler said. “An effective antidepressant should look like that.”

The study was published Nov. 24 in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Photo Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University


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