Smokers: kicking the habit may improve your personality

Youth in well-off nations smoke, drink less than in 2010: WHO

Kicking the cigarette habit reveals some suprising new benefits beyond cleaner lungs. Snuffing out smoking may also improve your personality, curbing traits such as neuroticism and impulsivity, according to new research.

Study lead author Andrew Littlefield of the University of Missouri in the US found that people who are more impulsive, more emotionally negative, and more anxious are also more likely to smoke. Researchers compared people, ages 18 to 35, who smoked with those who had quit smoking.

Kicking the habit revealed its biggest decline in these personality traits in participants ages 18 to 25.

"Smokers at age 18 had higher impulsivity rates than nonsmokers at age 18, and those who quit tended to display the steepest declines in impulsivity between ages 18 and 25," Littlefield said. For older smokers, he adds, smoking becomes part of a regular behavior pattern, driven by habit, craving, and tolerance, rather than personality traits such as impulsivity.

According to a press release on September 12, the study has been accepted by the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. Littlefield also recently received a $30,000 grant from the US-based National Institutes of Health to study genetic influences on personality and alcohol drinking motives.

Smokers, here's some more encouraging news: quitting smoking, or even trying to quit, will not only improve your health in myriad ways but might also mend your mood, according to another study.

This study, published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, tracked symptoms of depression in people who were trying to quit smoking. Interestingly, study subjects described themselves as "never happier" as when they were successful at quitting, for however long that was. This counters the assumption that giving up smoking, often considered a stress-coping mechanism for many people, leads to better health but often at a psychological cost.

Ready to take your last few puffs? Here are a few sites to help:

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