Air pollution linked to depression in old age

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According to findings from a British research team, living in a heavily polluted area can increase our risk of suffering from depression by a third.

The team looked at data from 13 European cities and found that people over the age of 50 were more likely to struggle with mental health issues if they lived in heavily polluted areas.

Pollution particles from vehicles are often so small, they can enter the blood stream. From there they can travel to the brain, where they cause inflammation. It is this inflammation that changes the signaling patterns in the brain, which leads to feelings of depression and anxiety. Scientists also believe that traffic noise from busy roads adds to the problem. The constant bombardment of traffic and noise causes stress and anxiety that can also lead to depression.

This is not the first time exposure to airborne pollutants has been linked to how we feel. A Chinese study found that people tend to feel more sad on days when pollution levels are high. A Canadian study found that women exposed to high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide were more likely to feel depressed and anxious. And a study from Sweden found that teenagers were more likely to be using psychiatric medication if they lived in heavily polluted areas.

The more we learn about pollution, the more we realize it affects every aspect of our health, right the way through our lives. Low birth weight, premature birth, birth defects, cot death, miscarriages, autism, premature aging, lung disease, heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, cancer and diabetes have all been linked to air pollution. And now we can add depression and anxiety to that list too.

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