9 January 2023
Quitting smoking can lead to improvements in mental health after a year or more of abstinence, according to a new study led by SPECTRUM researchers from University College London and King’s College London.
The research, published in Addictive Behaviours, analysed data from over 30,000 adults in Great Britain between October 2020 and February 2022.
Data came from the Smoking Toolkit Study, a national survey collecting detailed data on smoking behaviour across Great Britain, which is funded by Cancer Research UK and SPECTRUM.
The research team examined the association of psychological distress (covering feelings of nervousness, hopelessness, restlessness, depression, ‘everything an effort’ and worthlessness) with quitting smoking, time since quitting, and the use of non-combustible nicotine products such as nicotine patches/gums/lozenges, vapes and heated tobacco products.
Improved mental health after quitting
They found that people who had never smoked, or those who had not smoked for over a year, had lower levels of distress compared with those who currently smoked or had quit in the past year. This effect was found to be greater among those who had ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
The findings suggest that improvements in mental health following quitting smoking are most clearly seen a year after quitting. Quitting smoking could prove particularly beneficial among those ever diagnosed with a mental health condition.