Differences in happiness between smokers, ex-smokers and never smokers: cross-sectional findings from a national household survey

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Feb 1;121(1-2):38-44. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.08.011. Epub 2011 Sep 8.


Background: Happiness has become established as an important psychological dimension and not merely the obverse of depression and anxiety. Ex-smokers report that they are happier than when they were smoking but this could reflect biased recall. To date, no studies have examined happiness as a function of smoking status in ex-smokers of varying length of abstinence compared with current and never smokers.

Methods: A cross-sectional household study of a nationally representative sample of adults examined the association between smoking status (never smoker, smoker, ex-smoker<1 year, ex-smoker ≥ 1 year) and two standard measures of happiness adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics (N=6923).

Results: After adjusting for age, gender and social grade, ex-smokers of ≥ 1 year reported higher levels of happiness than smokers (p<0.001) and similar levels to never smokers. Ex-smokers of <1 year had similar levels to smokers. Smoking to feel less depressed (p<0.001) or anxious (p<0.044) were the only smoking characteristics associated with lower happiness among current smokers.

Conclusions: Ex-smokers who have stopped for a year or more are happier than current smokers and similar to never smokers. Whilst these results are cross-sectional and have to be interpreted with caution, this adds to the evidence that smoking may decrease happiness and stopping may increase it.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*