Air pollution could be affecting mental health, says new study

Laura Hampson

Air pollution could be causing mental health issues later in life, a new study has found.

Research from the University of Chicago analysed health data from 152 million people in the US and Denmark over 11 years and found a ‘significant link’ between mental health disorders and exposure to air pollution.

The study found that countries with more severe air pollution see a 27 per cent rise in citizens with bipolar disorder and a six per cent rise in citizens with major depression compared to countries with better air quality.

Andrey Rzhetsky, study author and professor of medicine and human genetics at the University of Chicago, said in a statement: “There’s quite a few known triggers but pollution is a new direction.

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“Research on dogs and rodents shows air pollution can get into the brain and cause inflammation which results in symptoms resembling depression. It’s quite possible that the same thing happens in humans.”

For the Denmark-specific research, the study found adults who had lived in areas of poor environmental air quality up to the age of 10 saw a 29 per cent increase in mental health disorders as well as a two-fold increase in schizophrenia cases and higher rates of depression, bipolar and personality disorder.

While further research needs to be done, there have been criticisms in the scientific community, with John Ioannidis, a professor at Stanford University, stating: “Despite analyses involving large datasets, the available evidence has substantial shortcomings and a long series of potential biases may invalidate the observed associations.”

Air pollution has been a hot topic recently and earlier this month a study found that air pollution can hinder fertility in both men and women living in big cities.

Professor Simon Fishel, Founder and President of the CARE Fertility Group, told the Standard: “It has been shown for some time that pollution has devastating effects on fertility.”

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