Although it’s been hinted at and even partially studied, new research has found that even low levels of air pollution exposure over the long term can lead to depression and anxiety. This recently released study tracked almost 500,000 adults in the UK over 11 years and found those living in more polluted areas to suffer more episodes of depression and anxiety, The Guardian reports.
Even in areas where air quality was within official limits, long-term exposure resulted in increased episodes of anxiety and depression. This suggests the need for stricter standards and regulations surrounding air pollution control. Recently, the WHO released stricter air quality guidelines, but even the United Kingdom’s proposed new guidelines allow for double the PM2.5 of the WHO guidelines.
What makes this study particularly notable is that while the link between air pollution and mental health disorders has been known and even proven previously, these studies were all carried out in regions where air pollution concentrations exceeded the limits. However, this new study has found that even exposure within the UK limits can lead to mental health issues.
While this study provides incredibly useful information regarding how air pollution impacts us, it would be interesting to see the data on a per-pollutant basis. While the link between air pollution and mental health is well-established, it would be interesting and helpful to learn which pollutants have the greatest link and which (if any) aren’t linked.
One thing is for sure - the more we research air pollution, the more harmful it becomes. Although we are discovering more links every day, there is still so much we don’t know about how air pollution impacts our health. For this reason, we must always do our best to protect ourselves from air pollution whenever possible.