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Smoking Relieves Stress: True or False?

Whistler_1862_White-girlFalse, according to a newly published study on the effect of stopping smoking on perceived stress. Even though many smokers believe that smoking helps them cope with stress, and that stopping smoking would deprive them of an effective stress management tool, this turns out not to be the case, except in the very short term.

This long-term study conducted jointly by the University of London, the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry project has provided more robust data on post-cessation changes in perceived stress levels. The individuals studied were a group of 469 smokers admitted to the hospital after a heart attack or for coronary bypass surgery. They were seen upon admission and completed a 1-year follow-up. Of the patients, 41% maintained abstinence from smoking for 1 year, while the others did not. Abstainers recorded a significantly larger decrease in perceived stress than those who continued to smoke.

The conclusions reached by the research team were that in highly addicted smokers who report that smoking helps them cope with stress, giving up smoking significantly reduced their stress levels. Among those who did not quit, regardless of any immediate effects smoking may have on their perceived stress, it was shown to generate or aggravate their negative emotional states.

The results are being used to reassure smokers who may be worried that quitting may deprive them of a valuable stress-reduction resource. Quitting is better than continuing to smoke, from all health-related points of view, including stress.