Major depression and non-specific distress following smoking cessation in the Canadian general population

Scott B. Patten, Jeanne V.A. Williams, Dina H. Lavorato, Jian Li Wang, Tolulope T. Sajobi, Andrew G.M. Bulloch

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Background Outcome data from smoking cessation trials indicate that improvement in mental health occurs after smoking cessation. This suggests that smoking cessation should be a priority for mental health services. However, participants in such trials may not be representative of the general population. This study investigates changes in mental health following smoking cessation in a set of general population samples. Methods Data from a library of cross-sectional surveys conducted by Statistics Canada between 2001 and 2013 were included in this analysis. Survey estimates were pooled in order to increase precision. Associations between smoking (and smoking cessation), major depressive episodes (MDE) and non-specific distress (assessed using the K-6 scale) were evaluated using meta-analysis and meta-regression techniques. Results The annual prevalence of major depression was higher in daily (11.0%) than in never smokers (4.4%). The prevalence in former daily smokers was 5.1%. The prevalence of MDE and distress was elevated in those recently quitting but returned to baseline levels within one year. Conclusions After smoking cessation, indicators of mental health improve over time, especially in the first year. The findings support the idea that smoking cessation should be a part of the management of common mood and anxiety disorders. However, due to its observational nature this study in itself cannot confirm causality, sustained abstinence may be an effect of improved mental health rather than its cause. Limitations The cross-sectional nature of the constituent surveys does not allow causal inference. No biological measures (e.g. cotinine) were available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-187
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-sectional studies
  • Major depressive episodes
  • Meta-analysis
  • Mood disorders
  • Risk factors
  • Smoking
  • Smoking cessation

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