Researchers in the United Kingdom (U.K.) have said that small increases in people’s exposure to air pollution are linked to significant rises in depression and anxiety. According to the findings of a new study published in the journal; ‘Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology,’ an incremental increase in nitrogen dioxide, largely produced by diesel vehicles, heightened the risk of common mental disorders by 39 per cent. For tiny particle pollution, which comes from burning fuels, and brake and tyre dust, the risk rose by 18 per cent.
The scientists also found that people living in places with higher levels of particle pollution were twice as likely to experience mental health problems as those in the least polluted areas, reported ‘The Guardian.com’.
The researchers acknowledged that other factors were important for mental health, such as genetics and childhood experiences, but added that unlike these, air pollution could be prevented.
The researchers followed more than 1,000 adults in South-East London over five years, but the results were relevant for cities and towns across the world. In the UK, almost every urban area had particle pollution levels above the World Health Organisation guidelines, and around the globe 90 per cent of people breathe dirty air, the study leader, Dr. Ioannis Bakolis, a lecturer at King’s College London, said.
“Air pollution is not the only factor that may have an impact on the presence of mental disorders, but it is a preventable one. “Introducing measures to reduce air pollution may represent a rare and potentially impactful primary health measure for the prevention of psychiatric disorders.” In his contribution, a lecturer at the Imperial College, London, Dr. Ian Mudway, who is also part of the research team, said rates of mental health disorders were known to be higher in urban areas, with suggested causes including deprivation and lack of green space.