New research points to the possibility of air pollution being a cause of mental illness. Exposure to air pollution, especially in the first decade of a person’s life, could play a crucial part in the development of mental illnesses later on in life. However, this research is not universally accepted.
The researchers published in PLOS Biology. Data from the United States and Denmark came under observation to figure out the nature of the relationship that might exist between pollution and psychiatric disorders.
The study points out how people living in places with higher rates of air pollution suffer more from disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder. Danish people living in polluted areas in the first ten years of their life were twice as prone to developing schizophrenia or other personality disorders.
Mental Health is a hot topic in the medical community in the present. Hence, researchers found themselves determined to understand any outside factors that might have any effect on it. Genetics and life events have a vital influence on the development of such disorders. However, researchers are keen to figure out the role of environmental factors.
This research focused on the effects of air pollution and mental illness.
Air Pollution and Mental Illness
Results came to light using two data sets. For the United States, Air pollution information and reports taken by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) measurements came under analysis. The data on Denmark came from the register of national pollution.
The EPA tracked 87 different air quality records. Danish pollution register did not have as many records, researchers carried on anyway.
Alongside this, there was a comparison with healthcare data in both countries. More specifically, the health insurance database. In the U.S., around 151 million individuals made claims to their health insurance in the years between 2003 and 2013. Similarly, for Denmark data of people living in Denmark on their 10th birthday and born between 1979 and 2002 factored into the research.
The results point out that multiple mental illnesses can be linked back to air pollution.
Denmark has more specific health records, and using those researchers found that brain development in the formative years of life and high rates of air pollution have a link.
Andrey Rzhetsky from the University of Chicago, IL, is the head researcher in this study. According to him, the chemicals in air pollution influence the neuroinflammatory pathways in the brain. This influence has also been known to cause mental illnesses such as cancer in studies on animals.
Not everyone convinced?
Andrey Rzhetsky goes on to explain some limitations that the study might have following heavy criticism received from other professionals.
Since specific individual health care and insurance information was not available in the United States, the study came under heavy scrutiny for just ‘guessing’ and throwing ‘hopeful hints’ around.
Professor Ioannidis is a scientist who says that the link between air pollution and mental illness is an exciting possibility. However, the dataset and information available are not enough to form concrete evidence.
To conclude, more research and resources need to go into discovering the existence and nature of this link.