Small increases in people’s exposure to air pollution are linked to significant rises in depression and anxiety, according to the first such study of UK adults.
The researchers found that an incremental increase in nitrogen dioxide, largely produced by diesel vehicles, heightened the risk of common mental disorders by 39%. For tiny particle pollution, which comes from burning fuels, and brake and tyre dust, the risk rose by 18%.
The scientists also found that people living in places with higher levels of particle pollution were twice as likely to experience mental health problems as those in the least polluted areas. The researchers acknowledged that other factors were important for mental health, such as genetics and childhood experiences, but added that, unlike these, air pollution could be prevented.
The study followed more than 1,000 adults in south-east London over five years, but the results are relevant for cities and towns across the world. In the UK, almost every urban area has particle pollution levels above the World Health Organization guidelines, and around the globe 90% of people breathe dirty air […]