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Quitting Smoking Boosts Mood and Eases Depression

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers from Brown University discovered quitting cigarettes makes people happier and lifts depression. The study showed smoking cessation elevated mood, while continuing to smoke or resuming caused depression.

The researchers tracked the mood of 236 men and women who were trying to quit smoking. They wanted to know if quitting cigarettes would improve mental health in a group of study participants with known depression who also happened to be moderately heavy social drinkers.

Conventional wisdom says people often smoke as a way to ease anxiety.Tobacco cessation has benefits for physical health, but scientists have not been certain of the effect on mood.

Smoking Cessation Short-Term Improves Mood

Christopher Kahler, corresponding author and research professor of community health at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University says, "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 researchers studied 236 men and women to find the link between quitting smoking and less depression. They were provided nicotine patches and underwent standardized testing for depression symptoms prior to the agreed upon quit date and again at two, eight, 16, and 28 weeks.

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Brown says the study participants who remained smoke-free were the happiest. Among the group, 99 never stopped smoking, 44 refrained for two weeks and 33 avoided cigarettes until the end.

Happiness was highest for those who stopped smoking and remained smoke free, something the researchers observed from start to finish. Those who gave up cigarettes for two weeks were happier and less depressed when they were not smoking.

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

The authors concluded, "Efforts to promote smoking cessation should highlight that individuals are likely to feel more rather than less psychologically healthy when they successfully quit smoking."

Even though the study participants were heavy drinkers, the findings seem to have no correlation to alcohol intake. Less depression and happier moods were directly linked to quitting cigarettes.

Nicotine Tob Res (2010) doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntq213