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You're twice as likely to develop mental health problems if you smoke, HSE says

A new study showed the benefits

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

SMOKERS ARE TWICE as likely to develop mental health issues than those who don’t indulge, research from an Irish health study has found.

Dr Paul Kavanagh, Director of Public Health Medicine North East, Specialist in Public Health Medicine and Advisor to HSE Tobacco Free Ireland programme has been researching the links between nicotine consumption and poor mental health.

As part of the Healthy Ireland report which surveys 7,500 Irish people above the age of 15 and from all social strata, Kavanagh, along with his research team, studied the chance of people developing mental health problems and linked that with their current smoking status.

The provisional results found that 14.5% of smokers have a probable mental health problem compared to 7.7% of smokers. The rate of those who quit smoking was 8.1%.

Smoking myths

Kavanagh explained how nicotine consumption affects the user.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Kavanagh said: “Smoking and mental health problems share causes. There are biological factors and social factors. Some people’s mental health problems lead them to smoking.

“We know that people who have mental health problems carry false beliefs that smoking reduces anxiety. It’s a false belief. They are self-medicating in cigarettes.”

Kavanagh explained how smoking in and of itself can lead to mental health problems. He said that there are biological factors at play and that smoking can affect how your brain works.

“Smokers put their brains under a strenuous cycle of giving nicotine and then they enter a withdrawal cycle quite quickly,” he said.

But Kavanagh added that there were more than psychological issues with smoking at play.

He explained: “People who smoke can have problems with self-image and how they’re perceived. Social factors are also there. People who smoke carry significant financial strain.”

The message emanating from the studies is that the mental health benefits of quitting smoking are immense.

The HSE’s latest Quit campaign has found that there are now over 1 million people in the country who’ve successfully quit smoking.

The Healthy Ireland Survey found that about 22% of Irish adults are smokers, 18% smoke on a daily basis with 4% smoking occasionally.

This translates to about 830,000 smokers in Ireland, fewer than the number of quitters.

Of those who do smoke, the rate of smoking is highest in the 25-34 age group and is lowest (9%) in the over 75 age group.

Men are more likely to smoke than women with 25% of men being current smokers, compared to 20% of women.

The survey also looked at people who’ve quit smoking in the past year and found that about one in eight people (12%) who smoked a year ago have since quit.

Help on how to quite can be found on the HSE’s Quit website or by calling the Quit Team on Freephone 1800 201 203 

Read: Smoking bans make married people happier than anyone else >

Read: Why is it so hard to quit smoking? Tiny worms may have the answers >

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