Woman breaking a cigarette in half

Quitting smoking leads to benefits for people with and without mental health conditions, research shows

Researchers from the University of Oxford believe they have addressed some of the concerns raised by clinicians around smoking after a new study found that quitting can help improve mental health for those with and without psychiatric conditions.

The researchers’ findings indicate that people elicit substantial improvements in their depression and anxiety scores between weeks nine and 24 after smoking cessation.

The University of Oxford stress the significance of this as, while smoking levels have generally gone down in the UK, the number of people smoking who also have a mental health condition has not dropped and has in fact stayed the same since 1993 at around 40%, according to the lead author of the study, Angela Wu.

Despite smoking being the leading cause of preventable deaths globally and NHS England estimating it costs the health service £2.6bn annually, some people don’t quit despite wanting to.

This is due to the idea that smoking cigarettes helps alleviate stress and has a calming effect, leading to some health professionals potentially dissuading people with mental health issues from quitting because of concerns about their state deteriorating, according to the university.

“We used three statistical approaches to reduce confounding, so that we provided more robust evidence about the effects of quitting smoking on mental health. Quitting smoking will not worsen and may improve mental health outcomes,” the study’s co-author, Min Gao, said.

“We hope our results can help motivate policymakers and stakeholders to better support smoking cessation in people with mental health conditions,” added Wu.

To access the study’s full results, click here.

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NHE May/June 2024

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