Does A Smokers’ Time Perspective Affect Quit Rate?
Some people take the time to weigh the potential costs and benefits of participating in a given activity before deciding what to do. Social scientists and researchers refer to this forward-thinking outlook as a future orientation or a future-oriented time perspective. In a study scheduled for publication in July 2014 in the journal Addictive Behaviors, researchers from Canada’s University of Waterloo sought to determine how a future orientation helps predict the likelihood that any given person will succeed in the attempt to quit smoking. These researchers concluded that a couple of key factors help explain the smoking cessation-related benefits of a future-oriented time perspective.
Nicotine Addiction And Smoking Cessation
According to figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most of the people who smoke cigarettes in the U.S. are physically dependent on nicotine, the main active ingredient in all types of tobacco. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, nicotine dependence/addiction is fairly easy to acquire and fairly hard to overcome. Doctors, addiction specialists and public health officials refer to the attempt to stop smoking cigarettes as smoking cessation. More than two-thirds of American cigarette smokers openly express a desire to stop smoking entirely and establish a long-term nicotine-free lifestyle. In line with this fact, millions of Americans make an effort at smoking cessation every year; however relatively few people successfully quit smoking for more than a few days or weeks.
There are several scientifically proven methods to increase the odds of achieving and maintaining smoking abstinence, including nicotine replacement therapy, use of non-nicotine-based medications such as Chantix (varenicline) or Zyban (buproprion), and non-medication-based approaches such as in-person or remotely delivered behavioral therapy and informative sessions called brief interventions. However, most people in the U.S. who try to quit smoking do not rely on one of these well-tested options.
Time Perspective And Future Orientation
As a rule, most people primarily focus their thoughts and actions on events that happened in the past, events happening in the present or events that may occur in the future. The frame of reference in use determines any given individual’s time perspective. Two of the time perspectives have a particular bearing on substance use, abuse and addiction: a hedonistic view of the present and a future-oriented perspective that emphasizes the benefits of delayed gratification. Generally speaking, people who have a hedonistic perspective on the present value impulsive actions and short-term rewards over carefully considered actions and long-term rewards. Conversely, people who have a future-oriented perspective value carefully considered actions and long-term rewards over impulsive actions and short-term rewards.
Time Perspective’s Impact On Smoking Cessation Success
Doctors and researchers know that people with a future-oriented perspective commonly receive long-term benefits in the form of improved or well-maintained health. Smoking cessation success is one of these potential health benefits. In the study published in Addictive Behaviors, the University of Waterloo researchers used a large-scale survey of smokers living in Canada, the U.S., Great Britain and Australia to investigate exactly why future orientation has a positive influence on smoking cessation attempts. All told, this survey included information from 9,772 people; it covered topics that included the day-to-day time perspective of each participant, each participant’s level of personal motivation to quit smoking, the number of quit attempts over an eight-year period of time and the relative success of any quit attempts during the same time frame.
After analyzing the survey results, the researchers confirmed that cigarette users with a future-oriented time perspective successfully quit smoking more often than their counterparts who don’t have a future-oriented perspective. When they looked at the underlying reasons for the different outcomes in the two types of smokers, they found that the future-oriented individuals who successfully stopped smoking typically had a higher level of motivation during the cessation process and sustained their active participation in this process for longer amounts of time.
The authors of the study published in Addictive Behaviors note that their project is the first attempt to explore the link between future orientation and smoking cessation success in current or recent smokers located in more than one country. In addition, they note that the link between a future-oriented time perspective and success in smoking cessation was found in all four countries under consideration. The study’s authors believe that the two factors uncovered during the study—heightened motivation and sustained participation during quit attempts—may be the main explanatory factors for the positive outcomes in future-oriented smokers.
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