Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happiness, Yet Another Reason to Quit Smoking!

Quitting smoking is a top New Year’s resolution, and is thought to confer a number of health benefits.  According to the American Cancer Society, the benefits of quitting smoking include:

  • improved heart and lung function, and reduced blood pressure 
  • reduced chance of developing cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)  
  • reduced chance of premature death (by 90%, 50%, and >25% if quitting at age 30, 50, or 60, respectively) 
  • improved sense of smell and taste

In addition, research just published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggests that yet another good reason exists to quit smoking:  ex-smokers tend to be happier than current smokers.
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In that cross-sectional study, Shahab and West assessed measures thought to reflect happiness in a sample of nearly 7,000 adults.  They compared life satisfaction and enjoyment levels in nonsmokers, ex-smokers who had quit within the prior year, and ex-smokers who had quit 1 or more years previously.  Life satisfaction and enjoyment were greater in ex-smokers who had quit more than one year previously versus levels reported by current smokers or ex-smokers who had quit within the previous year.
Comparable findings are being reported in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine by Piper and colleagues, who studied quality of life (QOL) and affect changes in smokers participating in a long-term smoking cessation clinical trial.  Smokers who successfully quit for 1 or 3 years, when compared to smokers unable to remain quit for those time periods, reported overall improvement in QOL and reduced negative affect.  In addition, smokers remaining quit at 1 year reported improved positive affect versus relapsing smokers.
These studies suggest that quitting smoking for long periods is accompanied by significant mental health benefits, in addition to the well-known physical health benefits.
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