Last Updated: Feb 15, 2023

A team of experts that has put together a pair of new studies has found that extended exposure to air pollution might increase the risk of the growth of depression. The findings of one of the new studies have been released in the JAMA network of scientific journals. The authors of these new studies have said that long-term exposure to increased levels of air pollution shoots up the risk of delayed-onset depression in elderly people. The other study has found that extended exposure to even reduced levels of air pollutants is linked to elevated odds of anxiety and depression. The findings of this study have been published in the journal known as JAMA Psychiatry. Many past studies have found that air pollution is linked to multiple cardiovascular and respiratory ailments. Experts have said that the new studies support a growing body of evidence that air pollution also impacts the mental health of elderly individuals. The new study has been put together by experts from Harvard and Emory University. They have assessed the effects of air pollution on older people in the United States.

The authors of the studies have used the data of around nine million people who have been enrolled in Medicare which is provided by the US government health insurance system for elderly people who are above 64 years of age. As per the data, Medicare has claimed more than 1.52 million people who have been examined in the studies have developed depression in the study period of 2005 to 2016. Experts have observed statistically major damaging links between long-term exposure, increased levels of air pollution, and elevated risk of delayed-onset of depression diagnosis. They have said that socioeconomically deprived people have been found to be at a much greater risk of delayed-onset of depression in this study and simultaneously these people are exposed to both social stress factors and unfortunate environmental situations, such as air pollution. In the study, experts who have been involved in these studies have evaluated levels of pollution and matched them to the addresses of patients enrolled with Medicare. They have found contaminants to which these people have been exposed have been fine particulate matter such as nitrogen dioxide, smoke, or dust which originate mostly from traffic emissions, and ozone that is emitted by refineries, cars, and power plants.

The authors of studies have said that older people might be specifically vulnerable to pollution-linked depression due to their pulmonary and neural susceptibility. Although depression is not very frequent in older people as compared to younger adults, there can be severe consequences, such as cognitive damage, comorbid physical ailment, and fatality as well said study authors. In the other study, experts from Britain and China examined the link between extended exposure to multiple air contaminants and the frequency of anxiety and depression. Heath experts, who have been part of the study have examined a group of around 390,000 people who have been based in Britain mostly. They have been assessed by experts for more than 11 years. The study has found that there has been an elevated risk for anxiety and depression even at levels of pollution below the UK’s air quality standards.