Air Pollution can cause depression in healthy adults, suggests study

Recent research has shown that small increases in air pollution are linked to significant rises in depression and anxiety. It has also linked dirty air to increased suicides and indicated that growing up in polluted places increases the risk of mental disorders. Read to know more.
Air Pollution can cause depression in healthy adults, suggests study

Mental health has been a trending topic among many in the recent years. The rise in conversations have resulted in increased awareness about mental health. But, how aware are we of the causes of mental illness? 

According to a study by GOQii, 43 per cent of Indians are currently plagued with depression and are learning to cope with it. 

While there are a number of circumstances contributing to the development of depression, a new global study revealed that people living in places with high levels of air pollution have higher rates of depression and suicide.

The promise of this breakthrough began to show when studies carried out by The Labor Institute for Brain Development, in collaboration with Beijing University were published.

It was found that exposure to pollution affects the emotional and cognitive capacity of the brain that may cause or worsen mood disorders, specifically depression.

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Amid the pandemic health emergency, it's important to pay attention to this research and take protective measures.

Currently, North India is seeing the worst air pollution season

The hazardous level of air pollution is the result of stubble burning, vehicular pollution, industrial pollution, and fire-crackers. 

Delhi has become a smog-house in the last few weeks and the air quality in the city is so toxic that people have complained about symptoms of lung problems and heart-related disease. 

But the impact on mental health is often neglected. 

A study published in the journal- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that “air pollution is changing the expression of genes that are conducive to depression”.

The study observed 352 people in a city with high levels of pollution. The researchers analyzed their genetic susceptibility to depression. It was observed that those with a genetic predisposition for a particular disease have an increased likelihood of developing that condition depending on certain environmental factors.

The researchers found that during the test, the activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—a brain region that is involved in cognitive functions such as response selection and working memory—changed in individuals with higher PM2.5 exposure and a genetic predisposition for depression.

It also suggests that individuals with a genetic susceptibility to depression may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution.

The study shows that those with depression, and those with a high genetic predisposition for depression, should take extra care as the pollution level rises.

If you are concerned about the effect of air pollution on your mental health or those you live with, it only makes sense to take action to lessen your exposure to airborne particles.

Here are a few steps you can take to avoid negative mental health impacts caused by air pollution:

  • Don’t smoke or allow smoking at home - Environmental Tobacco Smoke is one of the major sources of air pollution and contains 7,000 chemicals, including 69 cancer-causing ones. In an environment where smoking indoors is unavoidable, smoking should be confined to only one room.
  • Air purifiers - Investing in a good air purifier can be beneficial as it can not only purify and refresh the air, it can also reduce the chances of health issues caused by indoor pollutants that can cause respiratory infections and neurological problems.
  • Keep windows and doors closed- especially when outdoor particles are high. If you are living in a city with high levels of pollution, it is recommended to keep everything shut at least during the morning and evening rush hour.

These are just a few of the ways to reduce exposure to particulate pollutants indoors. There are also steps you can take to reduce your exposure to pollutants when you are outdoors.

Having said that, it is of utmost necessity to look after the mental well-being of yourself and your family members.

Prevention programs have been shown to reduce depression. So, here are a few tips on how you can ensure your and your family's mental well being:-

1) Talk about your feelings and encourage your family members to do so too. This can help everyone deal with troubled times.

2) Motivate everyone to keep active. A short exercise or yoga routine every day can go a long way.

3) Eat healthy to keep up your physical and mental strength. The brain needs various nutrients to function well, just as the same as other parts of the body.

4) Avoid drinking to deal with stress. It is certainly not the right way to manage difficult feelings.

5) Keep in touch with people close to you. A friendly chat can help you reduce stress and anxiety.

6) Ask for help when it gets difficult to deal with emotions. Advise and promote the same among your family members.

There are other effective treatments for depression depending on the severity and pattern of depressive episodes like psychological treatments such as behavioral activation, cognitive behavioural therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy, etc.

These are just some of the steps to seek professional help. 

But always remember, both physical health and mental health consist of holistic well-being.

Reach out to us at Atlanta Healthcare if there is any way we can help and support you to deal with Air Pollution and its impact.

Just drop in a note to us at and we shall be there to help you.

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