All In The Mind

Posted on: 04 April 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

A recent study has found that hypnosis is more helpful to men than women in helping them quit smoking.

A recent study has found that hypnosis is more helpful to men than women in helping them quit smoking.

Men who try hypnosis to help them quit smoking are more likely to be successful than women who use the same treatment, according to the latest research presented to the American Psychological Association. Experts reviewed 18 studies of hypnosis-based smoking cessation programmes and found that about 30 percent of men who used such a treatment successfully quit smoking, compared to just 23 percent of women.

But the reasons may have more to do with gender differences in quitting smoking in general than hypnosis itself, argues Joseph Green, associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University and lead researcher in the study. "My suspicion is that the gender differences are not unique to hypnosis, but are connected to difficulties women have in trying to quit smoking in general," commented Green said.

For the research, Green reviewed 18 previous studies of hypnosis-based smoking cessation programmes, all of which examined gender differences in success. The 18 studies included more than 5,600 participants. Of those 18 studies, only three of them found significant differences between success rates for men and women. In all three cases, men were more successful than women.

"But when I started combining participants across studies, a much clearer picture emerged in terms of a male advantage," Green said. "When you have a 7 percent advantage for men, that is important, particularly when success rates after a year are often in the 20 to 30 percent range anyway."

None of the studies Green reviewed examined why hypnosis worked better for men than women. But Green said research has not shown any real difference between men and women in their ability to be hypnotized. If anything, women may have a very slight advantage in hypnotizability, he said, so that shouldn't be an issue.

"There's no theoretical reason why hypnosis should work better for men than women in smoking cessation," according to Green. Because of that, Green said he believes the reason women do not fare as well is because of gender differences in smoking cessation overall. While there is some controversy, Green said many experts do believe that women have a harder time than men quitting smoking.

One reason may be that nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine gum, is not as effective for women as it is men. Experts also say women are concerned with weight gain associated with stopping smoking, so they are more reluctant to quit or may relapse if they experience weight gain.

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