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May 2014

Another Stop-Smoking Benefit: Better Mental Health

Lung cancer. Heart disease. Asthma. Smoking can lead to these and many other health problems. But in case you need another reason to not light up, consider this: Quitting may improve your mental health.

Mind over habit

In a recent study, researchers found a link between quitting smoking and better mental health. They looked at data from a large national survey on substance abuse and mental illness. The survey had 2 parts. It included an initial interview and a follow-up interview 3 years later. About 34,000 adults participated. More than 4,800 of them were smokers.

Over the 3-year period, 19% of smokers quit the habit. At the follow-up interview, quitters with a past history of an anxiety or mood disorder were less likely to still have such a problem. They also reported lower levels of alcohol and drug abuse.

A separate review of 26 studies on smoking and mental health came to a similar conclusion. In general, smokers are more likely to have a mental illness compared with nonsmokers. Quitting, though, seems to result in less anxiety, depression, and stress.

More health benefits

When you smoke, you inhale thousands of toxic chemicals. You also breathe in nicotine, a highly addictive drug. Nicotine quickly travels to your brain. Once there, it affects how your brain works, making you crave it.

Nicotine withdrawal can make quitting a challenge. But doing so has many short- and long-term health benefits. Besides better mental health, your blood pressure and heart rate will drop. You’ll be able to breathe easier. Your sense of smell will return, too.

Quitting also lowers your risk for many diseases. These include:

  • Cancer

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a serious lung ailment

Another potential benefit: You may live longer. That’s especially true if you cut out cigarettes early. One study of more than 1 million women found those who quit smoking before age 40 gained at least 10 years of life expectancy.


Quitting isn't easy. But being prepared can help. Learn more here



Tips to Help You Quit 

Fewer Americans are smoking overall. But nearly 1 out of 5 adults still lights up. If you need help quitting, try these tips:

  • Stay away from places where you can smoke. Instead spend your free time in smoke-free locales, such as museums, theaters, and stores.

  • Avoid beverages you associate with smoking, particularly alcohol and coffee.

  • Keep your hands busy so you won’t miss holding a cigarette.

  • Learn relaxation techniques to combat anxiety.

  • Start exercising to help reduce the possibility of weight gain.

  • Keep oral substitutes like healthy snacks handy.

  • Eat healthy meals and get plenty of rest.

  • Consider using nicotine substitutes, such as the patch or gum, to help you manage the initial withdrawal stage.

  • Talk with your doctor about prescription drugs that may help you quit.

  • Seek support from a smoking counselor or group. Visit www.smokefree.gov to find resources near you.

Online resources

American Lung Association

National Cancer Institute