Over the past decade, our understanding of air pollution and its impacts on the human body has evolved and changed greatly. While we still have a lot of research to do, we are now aware of tens if not hundreds of ways it impacts our bodies without us knowing. However, so far, these impacts have been physical.
This is now changing, as some recent studies have discovered a link between air pollution and mental health. While previous research indicated a link between suicide rates and air pollution levels, recent research has found a stronger relationship between air pollution and overall mental well-being.
One report by The Guardian found that even an incremental increase in nitrogen dioxide (a common pollutant normally produced by vehicles) increased the risk of mental disorders by 39%. Similarly concerning, particle pollution was also found to increase the risk of mental disorders by around 18%.
Perhaps more worryingly, the same article discusses how people living in locations with higher pollution levels are twice as likely to face issues with mental health problems compared to people living in less polluted areas.
While air pollution is far from the only factor that impacts mental health, it’s one of the factors we can act on and prevent. Adding to a long list of health impacts we have already discovered related to air pollution, these findings again highlight the importance of reducing pollutant concentrations.
Now, we know how badly air pollution impacts the human brain. Not only can it lead to mental disorders, but leads to increased suicide rates, declined cognitive performance, and can even lead to dementia.
While we work on reducing pollutant concentrations, we must take proactive steps to reduce our exposure to harmful particles. Stay inside (when possible) on high pollution days, and wear a mask when needed.
Read more on The Guardian.