Originally published February 25 2014
Quitting smoking can improve your mental health, say researchers
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) By now you'd have to either be living in a cave -- or another planet -- to be unaware of the dangers and negative health issues associated with smoking tobacco. Most people know that smoking causes cancer lung disease, and heart problems, just to name a few of the more common illnesses.
But as researchers continue to study tobacco and its ill effects on the human body, they are learning even more about how quitting smoking can improve your overall health.
One of the latest pieces of research, conducted by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found that not only does quitting improve physical health, but it can also improve your mental health as well. According to a news release from the institute:
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, new research... shows that people who struggle with mood problems or addiction can safely quit smoking and that kicking the habit is associated with improved mental health.
An association, but no cause-and-effect proof just yet
"Clinicians tend to treat the depression, alcohol dependence or drug problem first and allow patients to 'self-medicate' with cigarettes if necessary," said lead investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD. "The assumption is that psychiatric problems are more challenging to treat and that quitting smoking may interfere with treatment."
The research team looked at data from 4,800 daily smokers in the U.S. who agreed to take part in a pair of surveys that were conducted three years apart. Those who had an addiction or other mental health problems in the first survey were less likely to have similar issues in the second survey if they had managed to quit smoking, the team found.
The first survey revealed that 40 percent of participants had mood or anxiety disorders, or at least a history of those conditions. Meanwhile, 50 percent of participants reported having alcohol problems, while 24 percent said they had drug issues.
The second found that 29 percent of participants who had stopped smoking had mood disorders, compared with 42 percent of participants who still smoked. Meanwhile, alcohol problems were reported by 18 percent of those who had quit versus 28 percent of those who had continued to smoke. Drug problems affected 5 percent of quitters versus 16 percent of those who still smoked.
The study findings were released online Feb. 11 in the journal Psychological Medicine.
'We really need to spread the word and encourage doctors and patients to tackle these problems'
"We don't know if their mental health improves first and then they are more motivated to quit smoking or if quitting smoking leads to an improvement in mental health," Cavazos-Rehg said. "But either way, our findings show a strong link between quitting and a better psychiatric outlook."
She went on to say that it is her belief that serious health problems associated with smoking make it vital for doctors to work with their patients to quit the habit, no matter what other psychiatric problems may exist.
"About half of all smokers die from emphysema, cancer or other problems related to smoking, so we need to remember that as complicated as it can be to treat mental health issues, smoking cigarettes also causes very serious illnesses that can lead to death," she said.
The team said that, while there appeared to be an association between smoking cessation and better mental health, the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
"We really need to spread the word and encourage doctors and patients to tackle these problems," Cavazos-Rehg said. "When a patient is ready to focus on other mental health issues, it may be an ideal time to address smoking cessation, too."
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