We know that high levels of #airpollution can have worrying impacts on our bodies, from contributing to lung and heart disease to increasing our risk of silent miscarriage. Just this week, a new inquest into the death of a 9-year-old girl who lived near a busy London road was announced – she died of a severe asthma attack in 2013 that may have been caused by #airpollution.
But it’s not just our physical health that’s affected. Previous studies have linked high levels of #airpollution to spikes in psychiatric problems among children, psychotic experiences, and neurological conditions like bipolar disorder. Now, a first-of-its-kind review and meta-analysis has assessed how air pollution impacts our #mentalhealth, finding that it could be causing “substantial harm”.
Publishing their results in Environmental Health Perspectives, a team from University College London (UCL) and King’s College London assessed data from 16 countries, examining evidence of links between #airpollution and five #mentalhealth outcomes: #depression, #anxiety, bipolar, psychosis, and #suicide.
The #WorldHealthOrganization (WHO) currently recommends that people are exposed to no more than 10 micrograms of fine particulate matter – tiny particles like dust and soot – per square meter (μg/m3). However, many of us in busy cities, from New York to London to Dehli to Beijing, breathe air with pollution levels far above this safe limit.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
In the new study, the team found that an increase of fine particulate matter, aka PM2.5, of 10μg/m3 over long periods could increase your risk of #depression by 10 percent. In Delhi, PM2.5 levels have reached 114μg/m3, potentially increasing millions of people’s chances of developing #depression.
In London, where people are exposed to 12.8μg/m3 of fine particulate matter on average, the researchers believe #depression risk could drop by 2.5 percent if pollution levels were dragged down to 10μg/m3. The team also identified a possible link between long-term exposure and risk of #anxiety.
While long-term exposure to PM2.5 could influence #depression and #anxiety, the researchers also note that short-term exposure to coarse particulate matter (PM10) – larger particles of pollution like dust and smoke – appears to impact #suicide risk. Their findings suggest that if a person is exposed to PM10 over a three-day period, their risk of #suicide could rise by 2 percent for every 10μg/m3 increase in this coarse particulate matter.
The researchers are quick to point out that their findings don’t necessarily indicate a causal relationship between air pollution and #mentalhealth issues, just that there appears to be some sort of link. So, even if you live in a highly polluted area, you’re not destined to develop #depression or #anxiety.
“Our findings correspond with other studies that have come out this year, with further evidence in young people and in other #mentalhealth conditions,” said senior author Dr Joseph Hayes of UCL in a statement. “While we cannot yet say that this relationship is causal, the evidence is highly suggestive that #airpollution itself increases the risk of adverse #mentalhealth outcomes.”
Noise exposure in cities is a possible confounding factor and has been linked to psychological effects, including through sleep disturbance. Green space is another confounder, given it may reduce #depression risk and improve #mentalhealth.
While much more research is needed to reveal the exact relationship between #airpollution and our #mentalhealth, the findings add to a mounting pile of evidence that suggests dirty air is not good for us. Lawmakers have the power to curb #airpollution to protect the public’s health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, policies to tackle #airpollution often just aren’t drastic enough.
“A lot of what we can do to reduce #airpollution can also benefit our #mentalhealth in other ways, such as enabling people to cycle or walk rather than drive, and enhancing access to parks, so this adds support to the promotion of active travel and urban green spaces,” said Hayes.