Air Pollution May Raise the Risk of Depression in Older People
Merxwire 18 Apr 2023, 11 GMT+10
Dirty air is classified as a silent public health emergency by the WHO. Air pollution affects our physical and mental health, and many research data have emerged in recent years. The latest research shows that it not only affects respiratory health but also increases the risk of depression, especially for those over 64 years old.
Taipei, TAIWAN (Merxwire) - In recent years, the problem of air pollution has attracted the attention of many people, especially the stimulation of PM2.5 particles, and there have been many research reports. Parents are concerned about their children's exposure to pathogenic molecules in the environment from an early age, which could affect long-term respiratory health. The latest research shows that this not only affects health but also increases the risk of depression, especially the most serious emotional problems in the elderly after the age of 64.
A study published in JAMA Network Open pointed out that people who live in areas with high air pollution for a long time are more likely to suffer from depression in old age. Because air pollution can cause respiratory discomfort, related diseases, and even cancer. Sickness not only makes the body feel uncomfortable but also causes negative emotions. If the health status cannot be improved, it will become a long-term emotional problem or mental illness.
High levels of air pollution can also damage brain health, making people more prone to depression or anxiety. If you are exposed to pathogenic molecules in the air for a long time, you have a higher probability of getting depression after the age of 64. After suffering from depression, it will affect thinking ability, behavior ability, sleep quality, and diet status, which may become more severe disease problems and even increase the risk of death.
The study tracked 8.9 million medical reports between 2005 and 2016, of which more than 1.52 million people were diagnosed with depression. Statistics show that the elderly who live in areas with severe air pollution for a long time are more likely to suffer from depression than those who live in areas with better air quality. This figure does not include the number of people who didn't diagnose, so the actual number should be higher.
When the research team compiled these medical reports, they also compared the zip codes of the patients with depression and gained an in-depth understanding of the actual conditions that they were exposed to nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5, and ozone in this area. Because PM2.5 will not leave our respiratory tract with exhalation, but will stay in the lungs, and even enter the blood, irritating the respiratory system, and causing inflammation, asthma, or allergic symptoms. It can also lead to major illnesses like stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and long-term problems with depression and anxiety.
The study also pointed out that the three pollutants nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5, and ozone, are all associated with delayed onset depression. As long as they are in the air you breathe every day, even at low levels of pollution, there is still a certain chance of causing health problems or triggering depression in the future.
How terrible is air pollution? It not only increases the depressed emotion of the elder but also increases the probability of depression and suicide for the general public. University College London collected research data from 16 countries and found that poor air quality can lead to anxiety, so living in areas with twice the PM2.5 upper limit recommended by the WHO for 6 months increases the risk of depression by 10%. In every cubic meter of air in the living area, as long as PM10 increases by 10 micrograms for more than 3 days, the possibility of suicide will increase by 2%.
The scientists in the USA drew the pollution map. The study spanned 11 years and involved 150 million people whose insurance records included claims for personality disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, or schizophrenia. At the same time, analyze the data related to air, water quality, and soil quality provided by the Environmental Protection Agency to compare insurance payments and areas with high pollution overlap. They found the highest overlap between air pollution and bipolar disorder. The areas with the worst air quality have 27 percent more bipolar disorder and 6 percent more depression than the national average.
Scientists believe that polluted air causes the body to release harmful substances, which in turn damage the blood-brain barrier between brain cells and blood, preventing certain substances from entering the barrier, thus causing anxiety and depression. After these pollutant particles enter the blood and brain, they will cause inflammation, brain nerve damage, and changes in stress hormones. Finally, it would affect mental health.
More than 264 million people currently suffer from depression or bipolar disorder in the world. Studies have found that as long as the air quality can be controlled within the EU standard, the number of depression patients can be reduced by 15%. Therefore, we can start with carbon reduction in daily life, using fewer fuel vehicles and taking more public transportation. Enterprises reduce coal-fired power generation to reduce carbon dioxide and suspended particles in the air. Improving air quality will keep us healthy and happy.