Mar 28, 2019

Teenagers living in places with higher levels of air pollution are more likely to have psychotic experiences, a study, the first to tackle the relationship between air pollution and mental health of teenagers, found out.

The study was published at JAMA Psychiatry, a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal on psychiatry, mental health, behavioral sciences, and related fields published by the American Medical Association. It was conducted by scientists from King’s College London.

Researchers analyzed the experiences of more than 2,000 12- to 18-year-olds in England and Wales. They found out that those who live in the places with higher levels of nitrogen oxide gasses, which come largely from diesel vehicles, were 70 percent more likely to have psychotic experiences like hearing voices and intense paranoia.

“In areas with the highest levels of [nitrogen oxide gasses], there were 12 teens who reported psychotic experiences for every 20 teens who did not,” says Joanne Newbury, who led the research, to The Guardian. “In areas with lower levels, there were only seven teens who reported psychotic experiences for every 20 teens who did not.”

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However, this study can’t prove a causal link—only possible clues on why children in urban areas are more likely to get psychotic disorders later on. The study took into account, though, other potential causes of psychotic experiences like smoking, alcohol and cannabis use, family income and psychiatric history, and measures of neighborhood deprivation.

People living in cities are subjected to a high concentration of toxic particles and gases from exhaust fumes every day, as we all know. This study adds to the growing evidence that air pollution could have destructive and far-reaching consequences on our physical and mental health. This is a legitimate issue. And policymakers need to address and do something about this.

 

Featured image courtesy of Mauro Mora on Unsplash

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TAGS: effects of pollution mental health pollution and mental health psychosis psychotic experiences