Although most smokers seem to associate a drop in happy brain chemicals and diminished ability to handle stress as part and parcel of kicking the habit, a new study indicates that improved mood may be a side effect of quitting.
The small study of 236 smokers conducted at Brown University and published in the Nicotine & Tobacco Research journal measured levels of depression and anxiety in a group of smokers who experienced varying levels of success giving up tobacco. Although only 33 particpants managed to stay off the cigs for the duration of the study, most participants reported elevated mood when they did, according to author Christopher Kahler:
“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,” said Kahler. “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.”
Kahler even went as far as to compare smoking cessation to mood elevating prescription drugs:
“If they quit smoking their depressive symptoms go down and if they relapse, their mood goes back to where they were,” he said. “An effective antidepressant should look like that.”
You can read a bit more about the study here.