By now we all know that smoking is harmful to our physical health, but little is known about its effect on our mental health.

While many smokers argue that there are mental health benefits to smoking, justifiably so – as nicotine stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, increasing pleasure and decreasing anxiety, this meta-analysis of 26 studies has found the silver lining in smoking cessation. This meta-analysis examined what effect ceasing smoking had on mental health in both the general population and those with mental illness. Mental health was assessed before and after quitting – between seven and nine years.

Overall, when participants stopped smoking, they experienced reduced anxiety, depression and stress and experienced more positive emotions and general psychological quality of life. It had a similar effect on those in the general population and those with mental illness was equal to or larger than the effect of taking antidepressants.