Exposure to air pollution increases risk for anxiety or depression: Study
Long-term exposure to even low levels of several common air pollutants significantly increased the risk of depression and anxiety, a new study confirmed.
Researchers analyzed the health data of nearly 400,000 people in the United Kingdom against estimates of common air pollutants at each person’s home address over a 10-year period.
The results indicated that the risks of depression and anxiety were significantly higher with long-term exposure to even low levels of several common air pollutants: small particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and nitric oxide. The pollutants increased the risk of depression by 16% and the risk of anxiety by 11%.
The new research was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
“This study indicates that when patients present with depression and/or anxiety symptoms, their place of residence and work should be considered as a contributing factor,” said study investigator Frank J. Kelly, PhD, professor and chair of community health and policy at Imperial College London.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the air we breathe could be affecting our mental as well as our physical health.
It has been clear for decades that pollution from cars, heavy industry and wildfires contributes to lung and heart disease. Death rates are higher on days when and where the air is at its worst.
But those same tiny particles also get into our brains, potentially driving up stress hormones and seeding inflammation that can lead to dementia, as well as mental health challenges.
Studies have linked short-term exposure to severe air pollution with an increased risk of outpatient visits or hospitalization for depression or anxiety.