SOUTHAMPTON researchers have found another incentive to give up the cigarettes.

Despite the commonly held belief that smoking relieves stress and quitting makes you feel more on edge, a study by the University of Southampton has revealed that smokers who successfully kick the habit feel less anxious afterwards.

The study followed 491 smokers attending NHS smoking cessation clinics in England, including Southampton, and all had their anxiety levels assessed at the start.

Six months after the start of the trial, 68 of the smokers had managed to abstain from smoking, and ten of these had a current psychiatric disorder. The researchers found a significant difference in anxiety between those who had successfully quit and those who had relapsed.

All of those who had abstained showed a decrease in anxiety and among the smokers who relapsed, those smoking for enjoyment showed no change in anxiety, but those who smoked to cope and those with a diagnosed mental health problem showed an increase.

Interpreting their findings, the researchers state that those who smoked to cope were more likely to have a cigarette soon after waking up, which was behaviour “to stave off withdrawal symptoms, which include anxiety”.

By quitting, they removed these repeated episodes of anxiety and felt less anxious as a result.