Objectives Smokers report that smoking is therapeutic; a recent meta-analysis suggests the contrary. However, the association in that review may be explained by group-membership bias and confounding. Propensity score matching (PSM) aims to produce causal estimates from observational data. We examined the association between cessation and change in mental health before and after PSM.
Design A secondary analysis of prospective data from 5 placebo-controlled randomised trials for smoking reduction.
Participants All participants were adult smokers and had smoked for at least 3 years. Participants were excluded if they were pregnant, breast feeding, under psychiatric care, deemed to be unfit by a general practitioner or part of a cessation programme. In total, 937 participants provided smoking data at both 6-month and 12-month follow-ups. Of these, 68 were confirmed as abstinent at both 6 and 12 months and 589 as continuous smokers at both follow-ups.
Primary outcome Change in mental health (36-item Short Form Survey (SF-36), scored 0–100) from baseline (while all participants were smokers) to 12-month follow-up (after cessation) was compared between quitters and continuing smokers with and without adjustment, and after PSM.
Results Before matching, quitters’ mental health scores improved compared with continuing smokers’, the mean difference and 95% CI was 5.5 (1.6 to 9.4). After adjustment, the difference was 4.5 (0.6 to 8.5), and after PSM, the difference was 3.4 (−2.2 to 8.9).
Conclusions Improvements in mental health after smoking cessation may be partly but not completely explained by group membership bias and confounding.
- PRIMARY CARE
- PUBLIC HEALTH
- MENTAL HEALTH
- SMOKING AND TOBACCO
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