Public Release: 

Quit rates are low and not increasing among cigarette smokers with mental health problems

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

(NEW YORK) November 1, 2018--Even as more and more American quit smoking cigarettes, individuals with serious psychological distress (SPD) are much less likely to extinguish their habit. A new study by scientists at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and The City University of New York found that individuals with mental health problems quit cigarettes at half the rate of those without psychological distress. The findings are published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

"Overall, tobacco cessation programs have been very successful, but our research suggests that people with mental health problems have not benefitted from these," said Renee Goodwin, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, Columbia Mailman School, and senior author.

Using data from the 2008-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health the researchers analyzed cigarette quit rates among people in the U.S. with and without serious psychological distress in the past month. Symptoms of SPD can include feeling nervous, hopeless, worthless, restless or fidgety, so depressed that nothing can cheer one up.

They found that smokers with serious psychological distress in the past month have approximately half the quit rate compared to those without the condition, 24 percent versus 52 percent. "This trend may be contributing to increasing disparities in smoking rates between those with and without mental health problems," said Goodwin.

Differences in quit rates may be due to whether and to what degree persons with SPD are seen regularly by healthcare providers. But even if they are, these indviduals may be less likely to be offered smoking cessation treatment than those without mental health problems, according to Goodwin and colleagues. "There has been a long-held belief that mental health problems will be exacerbated by quitting smoking and that smoking is helpful to mental health," said Goodwin, "but increasingly data support just the opposite."

An earlier study by Goodwin and colleages found that mental health problems such as depression and anxiety appear to impede successful quitting and sustained abstinence. "It is increasingly clear that tobacco control efforts targeted for those with mental health problems are urgently needed to increase quit rates for this group of smokers and to lower the prevalence of smoking overall," said Goodwin.

###

Co-authors are Joanna Streck (first author), University of Vermont; Andrea Weinberger, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Lauren Pacek, Duke University School of Medicine; and Misato Gbedemah, City University of New York.

The research was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA20892).

Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health  

Founded in 1922, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Columbia Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Columbia Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers, including ICAP and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www.mailman.columbia.edu.  

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.