Can Dirty Air Contribute To Poor Mental Health?

If you feel stressed or down when you get home from work, it might not just be due to a hectic day in the office. It may be the air you are breathing.

If you feel stressed or down when you get home from work, it might not just be due to a hectic day in the office. It may be the air you are breathing that is making you feel down. Studies have found a strong link between poor air quality and poor mental health. Researchers have been studying the effects air pollution has on our brain and there is a growing body of evidence that shows regular exposure to polluted air can lead to higher rates of mental decline. Perhaps even more worrisome is that young people are more likely to develop depression at the age of 18 if they have been exposed to dirty air at the age of 12.

Polluted Air Leads To Cognitive Decline

The link between air pollution and deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases has been well documented around the globe. Less known is the connection between air pollution and poor mental health. A study by Rush University Medical Center looked at coarse and fine particulate matter. Large particles in the coarse matter are found in dust from manufacturing and construction. Meanwhile, particles in the fine matter are smaller and can be found in vehicle exhaust fumes. The study found that overall, fine particulate matter was more dangerous as it’s easier for the smaller particles to penetrate our bodies when breathing in pollution. Once this fine particulate matter has been inhaled, it attaches to nerve endings in the nasal cavities and then travels to the brain. The researchers believe that pollution in human brains could lead to the gradual death of tissue that affects our mental processes.

Stress And Air Pollution

Researchers from the University of Washington say that air pollution leads to psychological distress. The higher the levels of particulates in the air, the greater the impact on mental health according to its study. Excessive stress has a negative impact on our health and wellbeing. When you are stressed, your cortisol levels increase according to experts at HIF, which can lead to fatigue, weight gain, and other long-term health issues. Further research has found that higher exposure to air pollution increases stress hormone levels, but reducing indoor pollution levels alleviates these effects. This study recruited 55 students living in non-smoking accommodation. Air purifiers were put in half of the students’ residences for nine days while fake purifiers that didn’t work were put in the other half. The students were asked to spend as much time in their rooms as possible when not in class and keep windows closed. Student exposure to particle pollutants reduced by over half when the dormitory air was purified. Students living in untreated rooms were found to have experienced a considerable increase in cortisol, epinephrine, cortisone, norepinephrine, and indicators of oxidative stress, compared to those in dorms with the air treated. Furthermore, levels of insulin, glucose, amino acids, lipids, and fatty acids were significantly different between the students in the treated rooms and the students in the untreated rooms. 

Dirty Air Contributes To Depression

Children growing up in areas with high levels of air pollution have a much higher risk of developing severe depression by the time they turn 18. Research indicates that young people were up to three or four times more likely to become depressed by 18 if they have been exposed to dirty, polluted air around the age of 12. In fact, when comparing with previous studies, air pollution could actually be a greater risk factor than physical abuse when it comes to increasing the risk of teenage depression. It’s thought that 75% of mental health problems start in childhood or teenage years when the brain is rapidly developing. The scientists who conducted the research are also looking into the possible link between polluted air and antisocial behavior. During the study, the researchers took into account other risk factors that could impact mental health such as bullying, smoking habits, level of income and a family history of mental illness.

As the student study in China reveals, indoor polluted air raises our stress levels and can have a huge impact on our emotional and mental well-being. Purifying indoor air can play a huge role in helping us to feel less stressed and anxious while also ensuring our children are avoiding the risk factors that could lead to depression.

The contents of the Venta blog are intended for informational purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of health and medical professionals. Always refer to your physician or other qualified healthcare professional for questions you may have about your health and wellness.