Quit Smoking and Improve Your Mental Health

smokingAccording to Washington University researchers, quitting smoking does more than improve your physical health—it improves your mental health, too.[1]

Health professionals who treat patients with psychiatric problems often overlook their smoking habits, believing that it is best to tackle their depression, anxiety, or substance abuse issues first.1 However, this new research had found that those who struggle with mood problems or addiction may quit smoking and experience an improvement in their mental health.1

Lead researcher Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, Ph.D., said, “Clinicians tend to treat the depression, alcohol dependence, or drug problems first and allow patients to ‘self-medicate’ with cigarettes if necessary. The assumption is that psychiatric problems are more challenging to treat and that quitting smoking may interfere with treatment.”1

This, however, is untrue. In fact, researchers discovered that quitting smoking was linked to improved mental health outcomes and was an easier goal to achieve than thought.1 In fact, quitting smoking was liked to a lower risk of mood disorders, such as depression, as well as addiction.1

“We do not 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,” said Cavazos-Rehg. “But either way, our finding show a strong link between quitting and a better psychiatric outlook.”1

Naturally, the serious physical health complications associated with smoking is what motivates doctors to work with their patients to quit the habit; however, mental health issues can now be seen as just another reason to push the subject.1

“About half of all smokers die from emphysema, cancer, or other problems related to smoking, so we need to remember that as complicated as it can be to treat mental health issues, smoking cigarettes also causes very serious illnesses that can lead to death,” said Cavazos-Rehg.1

Cavazos-Rehg and colleagues analyzed questionnaires gathered as part of the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions.1 This questionnaire was administered to approximately 35,000 people in the early 2000s.1 Participants answered questions regarding drinking, smoking, and mental health, in two interviews that were conducted three years apart.1 Cavazos-Rehg and colleagues focused specifically on the 4,800 regular daily smokers.1 They found that those who had addiction or other psychiatric problems at the time of the first survey were less likely to have the same problems three years later if they had quit smoking during that time.1

At the time of the first interview, approximately 40 percent of daily smokers suffered from mood or anxiety disorders, 50 percent had alcohol problems, and 24 percent had drug problems.1 However, the participants who quit smoking suffered less mood or anxiety disorders and used alcohol and drugs less.1

“We really need to spread the word and encourage doctors and patients to tackle these problems,” said Cavazos-Rehg. “When a patient is ready to focus on other mental health issues, it may be an ideal time to address smoking cessation, too.”1

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Improved Mental Health Tied to Quitting Smoking. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 13, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/02/13/improved-mental-health-tied-to-quitting-smoking/65843.html

One Comment

  • Shannon

    April 7, 2014, 3:38 pm

    Quitting using tobacco is often on the list of primary plans you’ll have in life.

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