Many smokers shy away from giving up cigarettes because they fear that their mental health and social contacts could suffer as a result. However, the exact opposite is probably the case, as a recently published Cochrane meta-analysis shows.
The negative consequences of smoking on physical health are well known. According to statistics, one in two smokers dies of a smoking-related disease, especially cancer, but also chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease. Smoking also reduces physical performance, makes you short of breath, bad breath, and bad skin.
So why can’t or don’t so many people want to live without smoldering stems? One factor is certainly the physical dependence on nicotine. In addition, however, the assumption that smoking relieves stress and is also important for social contacts seems to play a role – keyword joint smoking break. Therefore, in the event of quitting smoking, negative effects on mental health and social life are expected. Luckily, e-cigarettes can help mitigate these negative effects and eventually allow a smoker to finally quit smoking.
However, biology alone speaks against the theory that it is psychologically worse if you quit smoking, according to the introduction to a recently published Cochrane meta-analysis: Neurological adaptation processes in chronic smokers led to those affected often experiencing nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression or irritability. Therefore, permanent cessation of smoking could probably benefit rather than harm mental health, according to the authors led by Dr. Gemma Taylor from the Addiction & Mental Health Group at the University of Bath in England.
The researchers found this confirmed in the overall view of 102 observational studies with more than 169,500 participants. In 63 of these studies, fresh ex-smokers were compared with people who continued to smoke for possible changes in mental health. Ten studies also recorded how many people developed a mental disorder during the study. The duration of follow-up varied between six weeks and in some cases even six years.
“Our results show that quitting smoking was, on average, associated with small to moderate improvements in mood. This benefit of smoking cessation appears to be similar in different groups,” Taylor summarizes in a press release from Cochrane Germany. According to the strict criteria of the Cochrane collaboration, the trustworthiness of the evidence was very low to moderate. After all, it is probably very unlikely that mental health will suffer if smoking is abandoned.
According to the meta-analysis, a restriction of the social quality of life is probably not to be feared. The bottom line is that the work shows that negative consequences of quitting smoking for the psyche and social life are most likely not to be feared, but that, on the contrary, there may be rather positive effects in this regard.