New survey results from Cancer Research UK, published today1 (Friday), should allay the fears of smokers who think giving up will make their lives a misery.
Of more than 850 ex-smokers surveyed, the vast majority reported feeling happier having beaten their addiction. Only a tiny fraction said they felt less happy.
The news comes as thousands of smokers in England seize the golden opportunity of the country going smokefree to try to give up for good.
Professor Robert West, director of tobacco studies at Cancer Research UK’s Health Behaviour Centre in London, said: “A major concern for smokers considering quitting is that they will be giving up an important source of enjoyment and a way of coping with life’s stresses and strains2.
“But these new figures contradict the idea that smokers face a more miserable life if they stop. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, they suggest stopping smoking actually increases happiness.”
Seventy per cent of those surveyed said they were happier having given up, 26 per cent said they were as happy and just three per cent reported feeling less happy. One per cent said they did not know.
Professor West added: “We found no difference between young and old. This means the happiness effect isn’t down to ex-smokers having less smoking-related disease. If this were the case, we’d expect older ex-smokers to be happier because they’re more likely to have developed these types of conditions.”
There was no evidence of a difference among men versus women, or across the socio-economic groups.
Nor was there a difference according to how many cigarettes respondents said they used to smoke.
Participants were also asked how much they had enjoyed smoking. Those who enjoyed smoking very much were less likely to report feeling happier than those who enjoyed smoking less. Despite this, nearly two thirds of those who got most pleasure from smoking reported feeling happier having quit.
Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, said: “We hope these results will bolster the resolve of smokers attempting to quit. And that they’ll encourage many more to take the plunge as the country goes smokefree.
“The health benefits of stopping smoking are clear – quitting immediately improves your health and, over the long term, reduces your chances of dying prematurely. But now it seems that giving up makes you happier too.
“Smokers who seek advice and use stop smoking products such as nicotine patches and gum double their chances of successfully giving up for good.”
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- The survey was conducted by BMRB amongst 857 ex-smokers of whom 108 had stopped smoking within the last year and 749 had stopped smoking more than a year ago. The fieldwork was carried out in October and November 2006.
- Taylor, T. et al. “Smoking-related behaviour and attitutes, 2005” (2006) London: Office of National Statistics
Respondents were asked which of the following statements best applied to them:
- ‘I feel happier now than when I was smoking’;
- ‘I feel about the same now as when I was smoking’;
- ‘I feel less happy now than when I was smoking’;
- ‘Don’t know’.
Reported happiness having stopped smoking compared to prior enjoyment of smoking:
|Happier||The same||Less happy|
|Enjoyed smoking very much||64%||28%||8%|
|Enjoyed smoking quite a bit||72%||26%||1%|
|Did not particularly enjoy smoking||74%||25%||2%|
|Did not enjoy smoking at all||86%||10%||0%|