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Home > Research Articles > Depression Not Always a Barrier to Successfully Quitting Smoking


Monday, August 4, 2003

HealthNewsDigest.com - August 04, 2003

Depression Not Always a Barrier to Successfully Quitting Smoking

Study results question commonly held belief that a history of depression reduces chances for successfully quitting smoking.

Providence, RI (August 2003) - Having experienced a depressive episode at some point in ones lifetime does not necessarily predict failure in smoking cessation treatment, based on new research results released in the August issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. The study evaluated the widely held belief that smokers with any lifetime experience of depression are significantly less likely to quit than those without such a history. The study found no significant association between history of depression and smoking treatment outcome.

The meta-analysis, which used statistical procedures to combine the results from previous studies examining the relationship between history of depression and ability to quit smoking in treatment, was completed by a team of researchers, led by Brian Hitsman, PhD, Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, Brown Medical School and The Miriam Hospital. Their review of smoking treatment studies published between 1966-2000, revealed fifteen studies that assessed both history of depression and smoking abstinence. The combined sample included a total of 2,984 smokers.

Of the fifteen studies, only two of thirteen showed a significant association between a history of depression and short-term quitting success (three months or less), and only one of twelve showed a significant association between a history of depression and long-term quitting success (six months or more). Smokers with a history of depression were just as likely to quit smoking than those without such a history.

Smokers have higher rates of depression than non-smokers. While 17% of the US population have a lifetime history of major depression, up to 60% of individuals in smoking treatment programs have a history of depression. Moreover, despite a national smoking rate of approximately 23%, up to 75% of people in treatment for major depression are daily smokers.

Study results offer hope to smokers who in the past may have been discouraged from trying to quit smoking because of their depression, or who may have been unsuccessful due to mismatched treatments. We hope these results encourage clinicians to take a fresh look at how they treat smokers who have experienced depression at some point in their lives, explains Hitsman, Clinicians should base their treatment recommendations on the same smoker characteristics, such as level of motivation to quit or degree of nicotine dependence, that are used to determine treatment for smokers in the general population.

While these results confirm that single episode depression does not influence smoking cessation success, it is unclear whether other forms of depression, such as recurrent major depression, interfere with quitting, summarizes Hitsman. We suspect that specific subgroups of smokers, including those who have had multiple episodes of depression, may require specialized, intensive smoking cessation treatment."

This study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, with additional support from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the National Cancer Institute, Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center.

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