Do ex-smokers report feeling happier following cessation? Evidence from a cross-sectional survey

Nicotine Tob Res. 2009 May;11(5):553-7. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntp031. Epub 2009 Apr 7.


Introduction: Many smokers fear that when they stop smoking they will give up an important source of enjoyment and be less happy. Yet, little is known about the long-term affective impact of quitting. The present study examined ex-smokers' reports of change in happiness following cessation and factors associated with these reports.

Methods: In a cross-sectional household survey of a randomly selected, representative sample, 879 ex-smokers were asked to indicate whether they felt happier now, less happy, or about the same compared with when they were smoking. In addition to sociodemographic variables, the survey assessed how long ago ex-smokers had quit as well as prior enjoyment of smoking.

Results: The large majority of ex-smokers (69.3%, 95% CI = 66.2-72.3) reported feeling happier now than when they were smokers, and only a very small minority (3.3%, 95% CI = 2.2-4.7) reported feeling less happy. In multiple regression analysis, controlling for all other variables, we found that greater happiness following cessation was associated with being younger (odds ratio [OR] per 10-year decrease in age = 1.21, 95% CI = 1.09-1.35) and having quit more than a year ago (OR = 2.37, 95% CI = 1.48-3.80), but responses were not related to other sociodemographic factors, prior cigarette consumption, or previous enjoyment of smoking. Irrespective of these associations, in every given category of respondents, the majority of ex-smokers reported being happier having quit smoking.

Discussion: Ex-smokers overwhelmingly reported being happier now than when they were smoking. There are many possible reasons for this finding, including self-justification, but it provides at least partial reassurance to would-be quitters that quality of life is likely to improve if they succeed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*
  • Young Adult