Mental Health Improved with Smoking Cessation Interview with:

Gemma Taylor MSc MBPsS Doctoral ResearcherGemma Taylor MSc MBPsS
Doctoral Researcher

Paul Aveyard and PhD MRCP MRCGP FFPG Professor of Behavioral MedicinePaul Aveyard and PhD MRCP MRCGP FFPG
Professor of Behavioral Medicine
Fellow of Wolson College
Primary Care Clinical Sciences
The University of Birmingham
Birmingham United Kingdom What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: Smoking cessation is associated with improvements in mental health compared with continuing to smoke. The effect sizes seem as large for those with psychiatric disorders as those without and are equal or larger to effect estimates of antidepressant treatment for mood and anxiety disorders. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: We hypothesized that the misattribution hypothesis would be correct – that chronic exposure to tobacco leads to poor mental health because when people have not smoked for a while they begin to feel anxious, irritable, and depressed. Thus after breaking the nicotine-withdrawal cycle through cessation, we would find that stopping smoking would be associated with an improvement in mental health.  We did not expect the effect to be so large and so consistent across studies though. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: Sustained smoking cessation is associated with improvements in mental health, for general population and psychiatric populations.  Clinicians should know that needing to smoke to deal with stress is not a reason to smoke. It’s likely that such a patient will improve their stress by stopping smoking. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer:  We think the evidence points strongly to this effect being causal- that stopping smoking improves mental health- but we can’t know for sure.  A large trial in which patients with mental health problems were randomised to get special help to stop or usual care would help us know for sure that it’s stopping smoking that leads to the health improvement.


Change in mental health after smoking cessation: systematic review and meta-analysis



Last Updated on February 14, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD