Smokers are around 70% more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than ex-smokers and non-smokers, a study has suggested.
Researchers said quitting smoking could help people combat anxiety and depression and improve mental health as they found that levels of anxiety and depression reported by long-term ex-smokers were indistinguishable from people who have never smoked and were much lower than current smokers.
The study of nearly 6,500 people over the age of 40 found that 18.3% of smokers reported suffering depression and anxiety compared with 10% of non-smokers and 11.3% of ex-smokers.
Lead researcher Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London, said: "Our study found that long-term ex-smokers have similar prevalence of anxiety and depression to non-smokers and considerably lower levels than smokers.
"Quitting smoking could be the key to improving not only your physical health, but your mental health too."
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) released the findings ahead of No Smoking Day on March 11th.
BHF associate medical director Dr Mike Knapton said: "There is a belief from many smokers that smoking reduces anxiety and stress, which is in turn causing many smokers to put off quitting.
"While smoking temporarily reduces these cravings and feelings of withdrawal - which are similar to feeling anxious or stressed - it does not reduce or treat the underlying causes of stress."