Air pollution may contribute to the deterioration of mental health. A study conducted in Rome showed that people living in more polluted neighborhoods were more likely to suffer from diseases such as depression and anxiety disorders. These are not the first results suggesting a link between smog and deteriorating mental health.
Air pollution harms our health in many ways, from the respiratory and circulatory systems to other organs where fine particles can accumulate. The journal “Environment International” published an article suggesting that smog it can also be harmful to our mental health.
Scientists from Italy based their research on medical data from over 1.7 million adults living in Rome between 2011 and 2019. Researchers looked for cases of mental health problems, including people admitted to hospital or receiving prescriptions for mood stabilizers and antidepressants. They then compared them with data on air pollution and street noise where they lived, as well as other factors shaping mental health – poverty, unemployment, education and marital status.
After ruling out additional factors, they found that people living in areas with higher particle pollution had a greater chance of developing depression and anxiety disorders. This was most visible among people aged 30 to 64. The study also found that reducing average particle pollution in Rome by 10 percent could reduce the number of new cases by 10-30 percent. Even greater improvement would be achieved by meeting the air pollution limits proposed by the European Commission for 2030 and the guidelines of the World Health Organization.
‘Our discovery highlights the importance of measures to reduce people’s exposure to air pollution,’ explained Francesco Forastiere of the Italian National Science Council, co-author of the analysis. – They are important not only for protection against physical ailments, but also for maintaining mental health.
Towards better understanding
As reported by The Guardian, knowledge about the relationship between air pollution and mental health is still limited. In the 20th century, scientists focused primarily on smog-induced respiratory problems, cancer and cardiovascular disorders, but their effects on brain health were largely ignored.
It was only in 2002 that a study was conducted in Mexico that led to the conclusion that exposure to air pollution increases the risk of dementia. Observations of the link between city life and a greater risk of depression and other disorders have led scientists to point to air pollution as a possible cause.
Other studies, including one conducted by King’s College London, found that air pollution also had an impact on the severity and recurrence of illness in people with mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.
If you are experiencing emotional problems and would like advice or support, here you will find a list of organizations offering professional help. In a situation of immediate threat to life, call 997 or 112.
Main photo source: Shutterstock