Butting out your last cigarette can significantly improve your mental health, according to new research published by national mental health advocate beyondblue.

The Depression and quitting smoking report found that people living with depression often face massive challenges in quitting their habits, according to Quit Victoria’s Executive Director Fiona Sharkie.

“With the right support, not only can people with depression quit, but their depression often improves,” she said. “We know that people often smoke to ease stress or boost their mood, but the opposite is actually true. Research has shown quitting smoking eases depressive symptoms and those effects can last for as long as the smoker stays off the cigarettes,” Ms Sharkie said.

The research findings include:

  • Smokers are more than twice as likely to report that they regularly feel depressed when compared to ex-smokers who gave up six months earlier.
  • Many people with depression quit successfully, but overall are a third less likely to do so than people who aren’t depressed. 

beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell said the research has been used to create the free booklet that is aimed at people with depression who want to quit. Ms Carnell said that, despite seeming hard, quitting is the best thing smokers can do for their health.

“We’ve always known the physical benefits of giving up, but this study shows the impact that quitting smoking can also have on people’s moods,” she said. “This study shows that while 37% of smokers say they recently had a prolonged period of feeling down, this number is more than halved to 16% among those who quit six months ago. The figure is 34% for those who try to quit but fail within the first six months, suggesting that even quitting temporarily has some mental health benefits,” Ms Carnell said.

The research was conducted by Dr Catherine Segan from The University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health. For a six-month period, it tracked more than 800 people who contacted Quitline for advice on how to quit, including a quarter with depression.

The research found while people with depression found it more challenging to quit than other people, many were still successful, with one-third having quit successfully six months after first contacting Quitline. This compared with about half of other participants in the research who weren’t depressed.