Smoking And Depression – You’ll Be Happy You Quit
The link between smoking and depression has recently been studied by several researchers and the results indicate the link is stronger than first suspected. The image of brooding rebels dangling cigarettes from their lips has been popularized in movies since the silent screen. Stars like Marlon Brando in 1951’s A Street Car Named Desire and more recently Brad Pit in 1999’s Fight Club, have portrayed their brooding characters squinting at the world through a haze of cigarette smoke.
The reality is not nearly so cool. Depression is linked to a wide array of diseases including cardiovascular disease, the number 1 cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is also linked to depression as are other risk factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking.
Smoking Influential Factors
Smoking, studies have shown, is not only linked with the presence of depression but the more severe the depression, the more likely an individual was a smoker. A disproportionately high percentage of cigarettes are consumed by people with depression or other forms of mental illness. Studies also showed that individuals without depression where more likely to have quit smoking.
The cause is nicotine. Nicotine from cigarette smoking alters the function of neurotransmitters in the brain and makes an individual more likely to develop depression. It is true that smokers “feel better” after smoking a cigarette but only when it is their first cigarette of the day. More than half of all smokers with depression lit up within 5 minutes of waking. Smokers without depression were 40% less likely to light up in the first 5 minutes.
Although smokers believe that smoking tobacco reduces anxiety, depression, anger and other negative emotions, studies have shown that after the first cigarette of the day, subsequent cigarettes do not make them feel better. Because electronic cigarettes still deliver nicotine, switching to vapor cigarettes does not help with feelings of depression.
Wanting to quit smoking may not be enough and for individuals with depression. They may need intensive psychological treatment to deal with the depression along with quit-smoking medication, coaching and social support. The studies that have looked at the ability of people with depression to quit smoking have shown that this combination can be effective at helping individuals quit smoking and remaining smoke free.
The number of smokers who no longer smoke increases with age although smokers who do not also suffer from depression have more success at quitting. This is particularly true of younger smokers who have tried to quit. Among smokers 20-39, those suffering with symptoms of depression were less than half as likely to have been successful. With a more thorough understanding of the link between smoking and depression it will hopefully become easier for individuals that are struggling to get the help they need to quit.