Recently published research from Washington University School of Medicine has shown that smoking cessation in people with mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and addiction, is strongly linked to better outcomes.

Clinicians treating mental health conditions often have a blinkered approach, treating the condition in isolation while allowing patients to “self-medicate” with cigarettes – wrongly assuming that quitting smoking may interfere with treatment, the authors point out.

But the study found that quitting or significantly cutting back on cigarette smoking was associated with lower risk for mood disorders like depression, as well as a lower likelihood of alcohol and drug problems.

The Washington research team analysed data from two surveys of the same population of 4,800 daily smokers three years apart. Of the daily smokers who suffered mood or anxiety disorders when first surveyed, 42% who had continued smoking during the years between the two surveys continued to suffer from such disorders, compared with 29% of those who had quit smoking. A similar pattern was seen in those with alcohol and drug problems.

“We don’t know if their mental health improves first and then they are more motivated to quit smoking or if quitting smoking leads to an improvement in mental health,” said lead investigator Patricia Cavazos- Rehg. “But either way, our findings show a strong link between quitting and a better psychiatric outlook.”

Reference: Cavazos-Rehg P, et al. Psychological Medicine , Feb. 12, 014. (Smoking cessation – less is more, Page 3)