Air Pollution, Depression & Suicide
A new study from the United Kingdom suggests that high levels of air pollution can cause depression as well as heart disease and lung disease, stroke and dementia. Researchers from the University College London also found evidence of a connection between short-term changes in coarse particulate air pollution and suicides. They reported that the suicide risk appears to be measurably higher when air pollution levels have been high over a three-day period. “We know that the finest particulates from dirty air can reach the brain via both the bloodstream and the nose, and that air pollution has been implicated in increased neuroinflammation, damage to nerve cells and to changes in stress hormone production, which have been linked to poor mental health,” said the study’s lead author Isobel Braithwaite. She added that the new study shows that air pollution “could be causing substantial harm to our mental health, making the case for cleaning up the air we breathe even more urgent.” The researchers estimated that lowering average air pollution levels to those recommended by the World Health Organization could reduce the risk of depression among urban residents of the UK by roughly 2.5 percent.
Isobel Braithwaite et al, “Air Pollution (Particulate Matter) Exposure and Associations with Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, Psychosis and Suicide Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Environmental Health Perspectives, December 18, 2019, doi.org/10.1289/EHP4595
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