Quit Smoking to Improve Mental Health: Study

By Vishakha Sonawane, Parent Herald February 13, 12:02 pm

Quitting smoking helps enhance mental health in people with psychiatric problems, a latest study states.

For the study, researchers at the Washington University examined the data of 4,800 daily smokers collected as part of the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

The results showed that those with addiction or other psychiatric problems during the initial part of the survey had fewer chances of suffering from the same problems three years later if they stopped smoking. Those without any psychiatric issues during the beginning of the survey were less likely to develop those problems later if they already quit.

In the first survey, the researchers found that nearly 40 percent of daily smokers suffered mood or anxiety disorders, or had a history of these problems. Moreover, around 50 percent of daily smokers had alcohol problems, and some 24 percent had drug problems, reports PsychCentral.

Furthermore, the study finding revealed that 42 percent of those who continued smoking during the years between the two surveys experienced mood disorders, compared with 29 percent of those who quit smoking.

Around 18 percent of those who quit smoking suffered from alcohol problems compared to 28 percent who continued smoking. Also, drug-addiction issues were seen only among 5 percent of those who stopped smoking compared with 16 percent of those who continued smoking.

"Clinicians tend to treat the depression, alcohol dependence or drug problem first and allow patients to 'self-medicate' with cigarettes if necessary," lead researcher Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg said in a news release. "The assumption is that psychiatric problems are more challenging to treat and that quitting smoking may interfere with treatment."

"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," Cavazos-Rehg said. "But either way, our findings show a strong link between quitting and a better psychiatric outlook."

Cavazos emphasized that doctors should tackle mental health issues along with smoking cessation rather than later.

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

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