Your loneliness is holding you back from quitting smoking, says this study
By Emily Hagan | Published on Oct 17, 2023
Are you struggling to quit smoking? You’re not alone. But here’s a solution that might help you kick the habit for good: find someone by your side to support you in your journey towards a smoke-free life.
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Interestingly, science suggests that loneliness can make it even harder to quit smoking. According to a recent study published in the journal Addiction, researchers from the University of Bristol have discovered a causal link between prolonged loneliness and smoking.
Loneliness and Smoking: What the Study Revealed
To investigate this connection, the researchers used a unique research method called Mendelian randomization. By analyzing genetic data and survey responses from hundreds of thousands of individuals, they found compelling evidence that loneliness increases the likelihood of smoking behavior.
While the results are novel and tentative, the study indicates that loneliness leads to an increased desire to smoke. People who experience loneliness are more likely to start smoking, smoke more cigarettes, and find it harder to quit, as explained by co-lead author Dr. Robyn Wootton.
The researchers also observed a reverse relationship: smoking may contribute to increased loneliness. This finding aligns with recent studies that have identified smoking as a risk factor for poor mental health. The nicotine from cigarettes interferes with neurotransmitters like dopamine in the brain, potentially deepening feelings of isolation, according to senior author Dr. Jorien Treur.
The Importance of Support in Quitting Smoking
According to the researchers, support from friends and family plays a crucial role in quitting smoking. Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), emphasizes that lonely individuals who struggle to quit smoking are more likely to suffer from smoking-related illnesses and premature death. To combat this, smokers dealing with loneliness should receive support to improve both their health and well-being.
The study also highlights the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on smoking habits. YouGov’s COVID-19 tracker suggests that 2.2 million people in the UK are smoking more since the lockdown began, largely due to increased feelings of loneliness. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that during the initial month of lockdown, 7.4 million people experienced a decline in well-being due to loneliness. These individuals faced difficulties finding coping mechanisms and lacked robust support networks.
Dr. Wootton emphasizes that as the UK becomes more socially isolated during the pandemic, loneliness poses a significant challenge for those attempting to quit smoking. While the study does not directly examine the pandemic’s effects on loneliness and social isolation, it sheds light on the broader consequences of loneliness.
Strategies to Quit Smoking
If you’re planning to quit smoking, there are several measures you can take:
- Plan your quitting strategy carefully.
- Avoid spending time with people who smoke.
- Explore practices like yoga and meditation to support your journey.
- Steer clear of caffeinated drinks, as they may trigger cravings.
If these methods don’t seem effective for you, consider seeking guidance from a medical professional. Dr. Arvind Kate, a pulmonologist at Zen Hospital, Mumbai, emphasizes that family support is a significant motivator for quitting smoking. So, if someone in your family is planning to quit, offer them your support and encouragement instead of mocking them.
Remember, you are not alone in this journey to quit smoking. With the right support and determination, you can overcome the challenges, improve your health, and lead a smoke-free life.
(With inputs from ANI)