As if you needed another reason to give up smoking for good: Researchers have now determined that successfully quitting is not only linked to greater happiness, but also to elevated moods, contrary to the popular belief that abandoning the habit makes you miserable.
The study, which was conducted at Brown University and published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, evaluated 236 male and female smokers, before and during the process of quitting. After undergoing standardized tests for symptoms of depression, participants were counseled on smoking cessation and given nicotine patches to aid them along the way. Further counseling sessions took place at 2, 8, 16 and 28 weeks after their quit dates, regardless of whether or not participants were still smoking. (More on Time.com: A Single Cigarette Can Raise the Risk of Cancer and Heart Disease)
What researchers found were that those who were able to quit smoking, even for a short time, reported very high spirits during their checkups, while those who failed reported moods that were even darker than when the study began. Those participants who failed right away and never abstained (99 people total) were found to be unhappiest of all the groups, while those who avoided smoking for the whole length of the study reported the highest levels of happiness. (More on Time.com: Study: 99% of Children Living in Apartments May Be Exposed to Secondhand Smoke)
The findings are persuasive, but the methods the investigators used do give reason for pause. All of the 236 subjects surveyed were also heavy drinkers, and when it comes to a study of mood, alcohol is about the most confounding variable imaginable. Lead author Christopher Kahler told Healthland that the use of heavy drinkers was important because this group typically has low rates of success in quitting smoking, and in general, alcohol is often involved when people go back to smoking after quitting the habit. However, he notes that they did not see a correlation between changes in drinking and depressive symptoms, as most participants continued to drink during the course of the study.
Kahler maintains that smokers who are thinking of quitting should feel encouraged by the results of the study, telling Medical New Today:
The assumption has often been that people might smoke because it has antidepressant properties and that if they quit it might unmask a depressive episode. What’s surprising is that at the time when you measure smokers’ mood, even if they’ve only succeeded for a little while, they are already reporting less symptoms of depression.
Just one more reason to follow through with your resolution to quit smoking this year.