Now that university is actually starting, brace yourselves for an onslaught of assignments, group projects, and eventually the dreaded exams. People deal with this in different ways, including pumping the stress out at the gym, laughing it off with some friends at the university pub, or smoking to get rid of the pre-exam jitters.
Most smokers know the risks and health problems these cigarettes can cause; heart disease, lung disease and cancers come to mind, but once they start, they can’t seem to stop. New research conducted by health researchers in the United Kingdom reveals just how important quitting smoking is, not just for the body, but also for the mind.
The paper, published in the British Medical Journal, analysed the effects of smoking on mental health, and what happens when people quit smoking. Looking back into previous studies, the researchers compared the before and after effects on mental health and overall quality of life between people who successfully quit smoking, and those who relapsed.
They found that in numerous cases, people who quit smoking felt significantly less depressed, much less anxious, and a lot less stressed, in comparison to those who continued to smoke. The people who managed to quit smoking also reported very positive changes to their psychological quality of life as well as their moods and emotions.
“Smokers sometimes attribute symptoms of depressed mood, agitation, and anxiety to stress or poor mental health,” the report says, “and conclude from the ability of cigarettes to ameliorate these symptoms that cigarettes improve mental health”.
The researchers argue that the cigarettes aren’t actually relieving these symptoms, but rather feeding the withdrawal that smokers experience when faced with depression, anxiety and stress – an association which the smokers initiated when they smoked a cigarette to deal with how they felt, and continue to reinforce every time they smoke away negative feelings.
So when you’re feeling unfocused and frustrated in a long study session, or annoyed at your team in a group assignment (which will inevitably happen, trust me) or getting those pre-exam jitters, and step outside to light up, take a long hard look at the cigarette. If you want to improve your mental health, you might want to consider quitting smoking altogether.