Smokers at increased risk of depression and anxiety

24 February 2015        

Smoking New research released ahead of our No Smoking Day (11 March) campaign suggests that smokers have a 70% increased risk of anxiety and depression when compared with non-smokers, despite the commonly held perception that lighting up is a stress reliever.

Interestingly, levels of anxiety and depression reported by long-term ex-smokers were indistinguishable from people who have never smoked and much lower than current smokers. This suggests that quitting smoking could help people combat anxiety and depression and improve mental health. 

The study of nearly 6,500 people over the age of 40 found that 18.3% of smokers reported suffering depression and anxiety compared with 10% of non-smokers and 11.3% of ex-smokers. This goes against the perception of more than a third (36%) of UK smokers who believe the habit is a stress buster. 

Quit on No Smoking Day

This No Smoking Day, we’re calling on smokers to bust the common myths associated with smoking and commit to quitting on 11 March. We’re expecting nearly one million smokers to attempt to quit on the day. 

Our Associate Medical Director, Dr Mike Knapton, said: “There is a belief from many smokers that smoking reduces anxiety and stress, which is in turn causing many smokers to put off quitting. 

“Yet, instead of aiding people to relax, smoking increases anxiety and tension. When smokers light up, the feeling of reduced stress or relaxation is temporary and is soon replaced by withdrawal symptoms and cravings. While smoking temporarily reduces these cravings and feelings of withdrawal – which are similar to feeling anxious or stressed – it does not reduce or treat the underlying causes of stress. 

"Dispelling the myth that smoking is a stress reliever should be another motivating reason to finally kick the habit this No Smoking Day. We’re asking smokers to mark Wednesday 11 March on their calendars and join the nearly one million people who are expected to use the day to quit.”

Ria Wood, 45-year-old ex-smoker, said: “When you smoke, its second nature to want a cigarette and you constantly make excuses as to why you can’t quit. You keep telling yourself ‘things are too stressful, I will quit next week’.

“Once I quit, I really did feel the difference. I noticed changes to my appearance straight away, but I also noticed I felt better and less stressed. Now I don’t walk around worried about when I’m going to have my next cigarette.” 

Get support to quit

Nearly one in five UK adults smoke, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and a variety of cancers. 

The good news is that stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health, and the risk to your health decreases significantly soon after stopping.

  • Find the information and support available to you this No Smoking Day