Quitting smoking linked to improved mental health outcomes

Addressing a tobacco habit at the same time as mental health issues will not interfere with treatment, and may lead to improved overall mental health outcomes, according to a new study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. 

Quitting or at least cutting in half the number of cigarettes smoked was associated with a lower risk for depression and other mood disorders, and alcohol and drug problems.

The findings are based on data from the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which surveyed about 35,000 people in the early 2000s. Participants reported on their drinking, smoking and mental health in two interviews, three years apart.

Of the total group, 4,800 were daily smokers; their data was the focus of this study. At the time of the first interview, among the smokers, 40 percent had a history of or currently had a mood or anxiety disorder, 50 percent struggled with alcohol misuse and about 24 percent had a drug problem.

 Three years later, continued smokers versus those who had quit:

  • 42 percent had mood disorders, compared to 29 percent
  • 28 percent had alcohol problems, compared to 18 percent
  • 16 percent abused drugs, compared to 5 percent 

The combination of these findings and the serious health risks of smoking provide good reason to tackle the two together, the study’s authors say.

The study, “Smoking Cessation Is Associated with Lower Rates of Mood/Anxiety and Alcohol Use Disorder,” was published online in the journal Psychological Medicine