Smoking As Stress Relief Is A Myth, Studies Show

A recently released study suggests that smoking as a form of stress relief is simply a myth. Researchers at the University of East London have conducted a study that they say proves the complete opposite.

Psychologist Andy Parrot, who published his study in the American Psychologist medical journal, points out that nicotine actually increases anxiety and tension. The study found that regular smokers who are experiencing anxiety in combination with an addiction to the nicotine are actually more prone to experiencing stress.

Dr. Parrot combined his own studies with over 30 others. As Daily Mail reports, he concluded that the apparent stress relief experienced by regular smokers when they light up is actually a reaction that is due to addiction. The smoker feels increasing stress and anxiety due to craving nicotine. The stress is relieved when smoking resumes.

Parrot asserts that it is actually a vicious cycle that causes smokers to suffer between smokes and to need a certain level of nicotine to maintain what would be a “normal” mood for a non-smoker. Smokers, he concludes, confuse these feelings and assume that smoking provides stress relief.

In a similar study, researchers attempted to assess stress and anxiety in those who had recently stopped smoking. The researchers monitored the progress of 491 people who willingly chose to attend a smoking cessation program at a clinic in England. The participants were asked to fill out surveys during their progression, and the results were compared. According to WebMD, the results concluded that people who had stopped smoking experienced less stress:

“After six months, people who had given up smoking scored around 12 points lower on a scale of anxiety than people who had relapsed. The scale, called the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), measures anxiety on a scale of 20 to 80. The average person has a score of around 35, while someone with anxiety usually scores 50 or higher. A change of seven points is what doctors usually class as meaningful. People who gave up smoking reduced their anxiety score by nine points compared to before they gave up.”

Researchers hope that this emerging information will help people understand why they smoke and will help dispel the myth that smoking is a reliable form of stress relief. This knowledge can be used to enhance existing cessation programs.