It is no secret that smoking is a leading cause of preventable deaths in the world, and its harmful effects on physical health have been well-documented. However, the relationship between smoking and mental health is more complex and less well-understood. There has long been a widely held belief that quitting smoking is associated with a deterioration in mental health which holds back many people from quitting. Over the years, a growing body of evidence suggests that quitting smoking can positively impact mental well-being. Many researchers have played their part in researching this long-debated topic for years, and one such example is Dr. Gemma Taylor. She has been instrumental in debunking the myth that quitting smoking is bad for mental health. She is a British-Canadian epidemiologist, researcher, and behavioral scientist.
Taylor earned an upper first-class BSc (Hons) in psychology and biology from the University of Worcester in 2009, followed by an MSc in applied clinical and health psychology with distinction in 2011 from the same institution. Upon receiving an MSc, Taylor embarked on a new journey at the University of Birmingham and received a Ph.D. in epidemiology in 2014 with the dissertation “The Association between smoking cessation and mental health.“
As a doctoral student, Taylor was supervised by a team of renowned academics, including Professor Paul Aveyard of Oxford University, Mr. Alan Girling of the University of Birmingham, and Professor Ann McNeil of King’s College London. Working under their guidance, she was able to develop her research skills and gain an in-depth understanding of the epidemiological principles that underpin public health research.
Debunking the myth and revealing the link
The link between smoking and mental health has been a complex topic for years. There are likely multiple mechanisms through which quitting smoking can bring positive changes in a smoker’s life. One theory suggests that nicotine withdrawal can initially cause anxiety and depression, leading some people to think that quitting smoking is the cause of these negative emotions. There are plenty of ways in which smoking can negatively impact mental health.
Taylor’s research has been used to source treatment guidelines for smoking cessation in individuals with mental health problems. Her work is adopted by healthcare professionals treating patients with mental health problems in several countries, including Australia, the UK, the United States of America, and many others. Her award-winning research debunked the myth that stopping smoking causes psychological harm. Instead, she demonstrated that quitting smoking is associated with mental health benefits.
One of her research’s key findings indicated that smoking cessation’s impact on mental health is equivalent to, in some cases, being equal to taking anti-depressants to treat anxiety and depression. It also highlighted the importance of providing psychological support to individuals who are trying to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is challenging for many smokers, who may experience withdrawal symptoms and other difficulties. With regard to this, Taylor’s research has indicated that providing support, such as behavioral counseling or nicotine replacement therapy, can help to alleviate these symptoms and increase the chances of successful smoking cessation.
Taking a break from her career
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world in late 2019, it was put in a state of lockdown as the pandemic spread its roots in different countries at the beginning of 2020. A considerable change was brought into the lives of many. During this challenging time in 2020, Taylor took a break from her academic career. The Government of England published two case studies based on Taylor’s CRUK-funded fellowship research on smoking cessation when she was on her career break.
Parting ways with her academic career
It can be challenging for anybody to decide to part ways with a successful academic career, especially when one has achieved considerable success in terms of prestigious awards, research funding, and publications in top medical journals. Despite being a highly successful academic, Taylor decided early on in her career to move on to new pastures, despite having a permanent position, which is highly sought after in academia. Her numerous accolades and achievements evidence the success of her academic career. With £35 million in research funding and first-author papers published in the world’s most prestigious medical journals, it’s evident that Taylor focused on scientific research and had made significant contributions to the field and public health.
In a nutshell, Dr. Gеmma Taylor’s groundbrеaking rеsеarch in еpidеmiology and behavioral sciеncе has had a significant impact on public health. Hеr work has hеlpеd to dеbunk thе myth that quitting smoking is associatеd with a dеtеrioration in mеntal hеalth and has rеvеalеd thе link bеtwееn smoking cеssation and mеntal hеalth bеnеfits. Hеr rеsеarch has bееn instrumеntal in shaping clinical guidеlinеs and public health policiеs, particularly in trеating patiеnts with mеntal hеalth problеms who smokе. Dеspitе hеr numеrous accomplishmеnts in acadеmia, Taylor has madе thе dеcision to move on to statistical and analytical consulting in the private sector. Hеr historical and continuеd impact on hеalth is a tеstamеnt to hеr dеdication to scientific rеsеarch and hеr contributions to thе fiеld of public hеalth.