Smoking is the global leading cause of preventable illnesses and deaths and about half of all smokers die from a smoking-related disease, according to the University of Oxford. Now, a new study has found evidence that quitting smoking can lead to improved mental health among people with and without mental health disorders.
This study was led by a team of researchers at Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences and published in JAMA Network Open. The findings showed that smoking abstinence between weeks nine and 24 is linked with significant improvements in anxiety and depression scores, according to a statement by the University of Oxford.
For the study, the researchers used data from a large, randomised clinical trial which was conducted in 16 countries at 140 centres between 2011 and 2015. However, only data from US-based participants was used for this secondary analysis. Out of the 4,260 participants included in the study, 55.4% had a history of mental illness.
“While we are seeing a large decrease of smoking rates over the years in the UK for the general population this is not the case for people living with mental health conditions,” Angela Wu, lead author and Researcher in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford said in the statement. Wu further added that the number of people smoking who also have a mental health condition has remained the same since 1993 (approximately 40%). The researchers hope that their findings can help motivate policymakers and stakeholders to better support smoking cessation in people with mental health conditions.
Commenting on the mental health aspect, Paul Aveyard, co-author, Professor of Behavioral Medicine at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences said in the statement, “While smoking gives a short-term benefit, smoking itself is the cause of the problems. Without smoking, mental health improves on average. Our study joins with others that show that when people stop smoking their mental health improves, whereas those who do not stop smoking have no improvement.”
There are alternatives and options to help people quit smoking such as counselling, nicotine replacement therapy (for example patches, gum and sprays), and even electronic cigarettes.