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Air pollution can be linked to poor mental health
Courtesy Clean Air Now

Air pollution might be making us depressed

A new study reveals that people living in more polluted areas are at a higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders

It’s common knowledge that air pollution is detrimental to our health, killing seven million people every year, and yet little is known about its toll on our mental well-being. Now, new research has revealed a link between polluted areas and increased cases of psychiatric disorders.

In a study published on the PLOS Biology journal, scientists found that areas in the US with the worst air quality had a 27 per cent increase in bipolar diagnoses, and a six per cent increase in cases of depression, when compared to the national average.

While researchers confirmed a link, they assert that the report doesn’t prove air pollution directly causes mental illness, rather shows that a person might be at an increased risk if living in a polluted area.

The study looked at 11 years of health insurance data for 151 million people in the US, focusing on those who filed claims for bipolar, depression, personality disorder, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy. Scientists then analysed air, water, and land quality data, observing where insurance claims and rates of pollution overlapped.

Conducting a similar study in Denmark in an attempt to replicate the results, the researchers reviewed the connection between mental illness and how much an individual is exposed to air pollution during childhood, with findings corroborating the US report. Previous research conducted in London also revealed that growing up in polluted areas increases the chance of teens developing depression.

Though climate change is at the forefront of global conversation – with young people reportedly more concerned than ever – air pollution often isn’t regarded as a household anxiety. It’s encouraging to see studies like this, as well as a new generation of activists, attempting to rework air pollution’s public image, raising awareness of its extensive effects.