Researchers at Washington University have found a strong link between quitting smoking and improved mental health. Health professionals who treat people with psychiatric problems often overlook their patients’ smoking habits, assuming it’s best to tackle depression, anxiety or substance abuse problems first.
However, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis showed that people who struggle with mood problems or addiction can safely quit smoking and that kicking the habit is associated with improved mental health. “Clinicians tend to treat the depression, alcohol dependence or drug problem first and allow patients to ‘self-medicate’ with cigarettes if necessary,” lead investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, said.
“The assumption is that psychiatric problems are more challenging to treat and that quitting smoking may interfere with treatment,” she said. But in the study, Cavazos-Rehg, an assistant professor of psychiatry, found that quitting or significantly cutting back on cigarette smoking was linked to improved mental health outcomes.
Quitting altogether or reducing by half the number of cigarettes smoked daily was associated with lower risk for mood disorders like depression, as well as a lower likelihood of alcohol and drug problems. The study is published online in the journal Psychological Medicine.