Your loneliness is holding you back from quitting smoking, says this study

Are you planning to quit smoking? Keep your support system near you because this study says that loneliness is a factor that stops you from quitting.
Smoking and loneliness are correlated. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Team Health Shots Updated: 17 May 2021, 03:25 pm IST
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Have you found it difficult to quit smoking? If yes, then be assured that you’re not alone. But there is a solution to kick it once and for all: have someone right beside you so that they can support you in getting rid of this unhealthy habit.

In fact, science also says that being lonely makes it all the more difficult to quit smoking.

According to a new study published in the journal Addiction, researchers have found evidence for a causal link between the prolonged experience of loneliness and smoking.

This study was led by researchers from the University of Bristol.

According to researchers people tend to smoke more cigarettes if they are lonely
The researchers applied a novel research method to the question – Mendelian randomisation – which uses genetic and surveys data from hundreds of thousands of people. The team found that loneliness appears to lead to an increased likelihood of smoking behaviour.

“This method has never been applied to this question before and so the results are novel, but also tentative. We found evidence to suggest that loneliness leads to increased smoking, with people more likely to start smoking, to smoke more cigarettes, and to be less likely to quit,” said co-lead author, Dr. Robyn Wootton.

world tobacco day
Flavoured cigarettes are foe to your lungs. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The researchers observed that instead of quitting, people smoke more cigarettes when they are alone.

“Our finding that smoking may also lead to more loneliness is tentative, but it is in line with other recent studies that identified smoking as a risk factor for poor mental health. A potential mechanism for this relationship is that nicotine from cigarette smoke interferes with neurotransmitters such as dopamine in the brain,” said senior author Dr. Jorien Treur.

According to researchers, support from friends and family is important for quitting smoking
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action of Smoking & Health (ASH), commented that, “If lonely people are more likely to start smoking and find it harder to quit, they are more likely to suffer the harm caused by smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable premature death, with thirty times as many people who die suffering serious smoking-related illnesses such as cancer, heart and respiratory disease. This research highlights the need for smokers suffering from loneliness to be given support to stop, to improve not just their health and well-being but also to help reduce their loneliness.”

Quit smoking
Yes, it’s not easy. But when you quit smoking, you reap a plethora of health benefits. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“While the method that we used in this study has important advantages, it is also early days for this type of study. We, therefore, suggest further research be conducted when more is known about the genetics of alcohol dependence and loneliness,” said Dr. Jorien Treur

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Lockdown during COVID-19 is another culprit for increasing the consumption of cigarettes
Do you know that YouGov’s COVID-19 tracker suggests 2.2 million people across the UK are smoking more than they were before lockdown? The reason is loneliness.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), during the first month of the lockdown, the equivalent of 7.4 million people said their well-being was affected through feeling lonely. Lonely people were more likely than others to be struggling to find things to help them cope and were also less likely to feel they had support networks to fall back on.

“Suddenly, the whole of the UK has become more socially isolated than ever before, and for many people, this will likely increase their loneliness. We were really interested to find that loneliness decreases the likelihood of stopping smoking and we think this is a really important consideration for those trying to stop smoking during the pandemic,” said Dr. Wootton.

“We are yet to see the full effects of the coronavirus pandemic on alcohol and cigarette use in the UK. Whilst our study does not look at the effects of loneliness and social isolation as the result of the pandemic, it can shed some light on the consequences of loneliness in general,” concluded Dr. Wootton.

Also, listen:

If you are planning to quit then there are multiple measures that you can use. Like:

1. You should plan it properly.
2. Stay away from people who smoke.
3. Try yoga and meditation.
4. Stay away from caffeinated drinks.

And still, if you think that none of this is working then meet a doctor who can help you out.

Dr. Arvind Kate, a pulmonologist at Zen Hospital, Mumbai, also suggests that family support is the biggest motivator for a person to quit smoking. So, if anyone in your family is planning to quit smoking then be supportive to them rather than mocking them.  

(With inputs from ANI)

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