COLUMBIA, Mo. — University of Missouri researchers earlier this week revealed evidence that showed those who quit smoking show improvements in their overall personality.
"The data indicate that for some young adults, smoking is impulsive," stated Andrew Littlefield, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Science. "That means that 18 year olds are acting without a lot of forethought, and favor immediate rewards over long-term, negative consequences."
In the study, MU researchers compared people ages 18 years to 35 years who smoked with those who had quit smoking. They found that individuals who smoked were higher in two distinct personality traits during young adulthood — impulsivity and neuroticism.
"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. "However, as a person ages and continues to smoke, smoking becomes part of a regular behavior pattern and less impulsive."
Despite the evidence from this study, substance use still is a complex relationship of genetic and environmental factors, Littlefield said.
The study, "Smoking Desistance and Personality Change in Emerging and Young Adulthood," has been accepted by the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. The study was co-authored by Kenneth J. Sher, a professor in the MU Department of Psychology.