Long-term exposure to air pollution linked to depression: Study
Long-term exposure to even comparatively low levels of air pollution could cause depression and anxiety, according to a study exploring the links between air quality and mental ill-health.
Tracking the incidence of depression and anxiety in almost 500,000 UK adults over 11 years, researchers found that those living in areas with higher pollution were more likely to suffer episodes, even when air quality was within official limits.
Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, the researchers, from the universities of Oxford and Beijing and Imperial College London, said their findings suggested a need for stricter standards or regulations for air pollution control.
Air pollution has long been implicated in a number of respiratory disorders but, the researchers noted, a growing body of evidence is establishing a link with mental health disorders. So far, however, the only available studies on the risk of depression were carried out in regions with air pollution concentrations exceeding UK air quality limits.
The researchers drew on the data of 389,185 participants from the UK Biobank, modelling and giving a score to the air pollution, including PM2.5 and PM10, nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide for the areas in which they lived. They found 13,131 cases of depression and 15,835 of anxiety were identified among their sample within a follow-up period of about 11 years.
As air pollution increased, the researchers found, so did cases of depression and anxiety. Exposure-response curves were non-linear, however, with steeper slopes at lower levels and plateauing trends at higher exposure, suggesting that long-term exposure to low levels of pollution were just as likely to lead to diagnoses as exposure to higher levels.
The researchers said they hoped policymakers would take their findings into account. “Considering that many countries’ air quality standards are still well above the latest World Health Organization global air quality guidelines 2021, stricter standards or regulations for air pollution control should be implemented in the future policy making,” they wrote.
Source: The Guardian