Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Can Smoking Relieve Stress?

Numerous studies have shown that smoking and secondhand smoke are linked to many medical disorders including cancer, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke. So quitting smoking would certainly be beneficial to both smokers and people around them.

Interestingly, many smokers have claimed that lighting up a cigarette can actually help them reduce the stress they have. This is probably a fairly good reason for millions of smokers to light up their cigarettes again even after quitting.

But studies have found otherwise. In reality, smoking has the entirely different effect. Instead of reduced, the long-term stress levels will be raised among smokers. In fact, smokers can have their stress relieved only when they quit smoking.

In a paper published on June 7, 2010 in the journal “Addiction”, researchers from the London School of Medicine and Dentistry found that smokers who stopped lighting up cigarettes had a significant larger reduction in perceived stress.

A total of 469 people, who attempted to quit smoking after being hospitalized for heart disease, were examined. At the outset, the participants had similar stress levels and about 85 percent of these people generally believed that smoking helped them cope with the stress they had.

After a year, 41 percent of the participants managed to quit smoking completely and their perceived stress levels were reduced by about 20 percent, whereas patients who continue smoking showed little change in their perceived stress levels.

Obviously, the findings supported the theory that smoking can actually contribute to stress among some people. But why do smokers still think that lighting up a cigarette could help them relieve stress?

According to researchers, when smokers are refrained from smoking, they tend to feel more and more edgy, irritable and uncomfortable as the period lengthens. A cigarette would more or less help them get through the stressful state. This is probably the main reason smokers think that smoking help them reduce stress.

Therefore, smoking can relieve stress is actually a myth, at least in the long term.

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