People with mental health issues are more likely to smoke compared to the general population. They are also more likely to experience severe withdrawals and are less responsive to treatment. Indeed, some people believe that quitting smoking can worsen individuals mental health difficulties.
However, research suggests that there may be biological reasons why smoking may worsen mental health through neuroadaptations, in which case smoking cessation may help to improve, rather than worsen, mental health.
Researchers from the Addiction and Mental Health Group (AIM) conducted a systematic review to examine the link between smoking cessation and mental wellbeing.
Results from the review, which was published in the Cochrane Database, found that:
- For all primary outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety and mixed depression and anxiety, smoking cessation was associated with an improvement in mental health difficulties.
- For the secondary outcomes, which included symptoms of stress, positive affect and quality of life, smoking cessation was also associated with an improvement.
- There was no evidence to suggest a worsening of social quality of life
The authors conclude
"Taken together, these data provide evidence that mental health does not worsen as a result of quitting smoking, and very low‐ to moderate‐certainty evidence that smoking cessation is associated with small to moderate improvements in mental health."