The dangerous and, most of the times, deadly consequences of smoking have been well documented over the years. From the development of various cancers to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases the list of health handicaps, due to smoking, is endless. Never before though, has the connection between smoking and mental health has been investigated.
In the past, researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand had already found strong evidence that nicotine dependence led to increased risk of depression. They had wrote, in the British Journal of Psychiatry that “this evidence is consistent with the conclusion that there is a cause and effect relationship between smoking and depression in which cigarette smoking increases the risk of symptoms of depression. The reasons for this relationship are not clear. However, it’s possible that nicotine causes changes to neurotransmitter activity in the brain, leading to an increased risk of depression.”
However, the results were not that concrete so further investigation was needed. Brand new study, cited in the British Medical journal (February 2014), identifies important and dramatic improvement in levels of depression, anxiety, stress and psychological quality of life on patients who quit smoking!
Surprisingly, it has become more common lately for mental health professionals to refuse to dealing with smoking in people with mental health disorders in case their condition worsens when they quit smoking. Many smokers also support the notion that their psychological well being might suffer if they get rid of this bad habit.
Researchers from the universities of Birmingham, Oxford and King’s College in London decided to join forces, and find out once and for all how smoking affects people’s mental well being.
The people studied were all smokers and and their mental health was assessed before and at least six weeks after smoking cessation. The mental health measures that were investigated included positivity, stress, anxiety, depression, and their general psychological quality of life. The results were staggering – there was concrete evidence that all the above measures were improved once a patient stopped smoking. They went a step further by suggesting that smoking cessation was even more effective in improving mental health than most anti-depressants and other drugs used to improve mood and anxiety disorders.
The scientists noted that “although observational data can never prove causality, smokers can be reassured that stopping smoking is associated with mental health benefits. This could overcome barriers that clinicians have toward intervening with smokers with mental health problems,” they add. “Furthermore, challenging the widely held assumption that smoking has mental health benefits could motivate smokers to stop” , (Source: Science Daily).
The role of nicotine in depression is complex, because smokers often feel emotionally uplifted following a cigarette. Many claim that it relaxes them through stressful periods in life and situations of anxiety. Depression-prone smokers are thought to self-administer nicotine to improve mood. We now know, though, that this is not truly accurate. Smoking has exactly the opposite effect and apart from its gravely consequences it now also deteriorates our mental health and increases our chances of stress and anxiety like symptoms.