Does Religion Help You Quit Smoking?

The negative health consequences associated with smoking are too numerous to list. And yet, despite being fully aware of these risks, many thousands of people still smoke. Although rates of smoking have dropped dramatically in recent decades, this behavior still represents a significant health problem for many people in society, and depressed women in particular. According to existing research, women with depression, anxiety, or similar issues, are more likely to smoke to alleviate their stress than men with similar disorders. And because rates of affective issues are higher among women, the rate of smoking is too. However, it is unclear whether other coping strategies, specifically religious coping, decreases the risk for smoking in depressed women.

To test this theory, Karissa D. Horton of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at The University of Texas at Austin recently led a study examining the role of religious coping and its effect on depressive symptoms and smoking behaviors in a sample of 963 college students. She asked the students to report their levels of positive or negative religious coping, depressive symptoms, and cigarette use in the month prior to the study. She found that for the women in her sample, religious coping contributed highly to the level of depression and cigarette usage.

The women with depression were more likely to smoke than those without. However, if they used religion as a positive way to cope with their depression, their risk for smoking dropped. But when Horton looked at the effect of religious coping on depression itself, she found that both negative and positive religious coping increased the depression-smoking relationship. For women without depression, positive religious coping decreased cigarette use. This suggests that for non-depressed women, religion may be a way to alleviate psychological stress without the negative effects of maladaptive coping techniques, like smoking.

Of interest was the fact that none of these findings appeared among the men in the study. In fact, depression did not increase risk of smoking for men, and neither form of religious coping affected rate of smoking, level of depression, level of stress or the depression-smoking relationship. Further research needs to explore why men were insulated from any effect, and what coping strategies they turn to when depressed. Until then, these results have positive, yet unexpected, possibilities for religiosity as a coping strategy. “The implication of these findings for women who are currently trying to quit smoking, is that in addition to other resources, religious coping may contribute to decreases in smoking,” said Horton.

Horton, K. D., and Loukas, A. (2012). Depressive symptoms, religious coping, and cigarette smoking among post-secondary vocational students. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031195

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  • Daisy

    January 22nd, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    Although positive,not all women may know how to use religion to cope with depression,so as to avoid smoking. Also it’s intriguing to see how men are unaffected. I’d love to see the reasons for the same.

  • elinor

    January 23rd, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    For me finding religion has given me support in more ways than I could have thought possible. But the one thing that I did not count on that I did gain was an immediate family and support system. My church family cares about me and my family, and when I need help and have no one else to turn to, they are there, and I know that they will be there,, and that it is huge source of comfort for me. I know that if I was struggling with something like adiction I could tunr to them and they would help me find the answers that I was searching for.

  • Gawen

    January 23rd, 2013 at 11:56 PM

    Conviction and willingness is what helps.Religion?While it may help some people get rid of their anxiety (only those that can concentrate to that level),for others it may not work as well.For someone like me,no religion does not help in kicking the butt.

  • duncan r

    January 24th, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    a nice new outlet to think about. although I’m not sure this will work for everybody who is religious. it needs that level of conviction and also it needs the person to be able to use religion as a coping outlet, only then i see this being beneficial. because the call of nicotine is far stronger than most people’s religious affiliations ;)

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