There have been a number of studies published in recent years, confirming a link between air pollution and poor mental health. Up until now, much of the focus has been on adults. However, a new study from the country’s leading children’s hospital has been looking at how air quality affects the mental health of our children too.
Pollution linked to depression and anxiety in children
The team from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital looked at data from 6,800 children over a 5-year period. Findings show that children living in deprived areas were more likely to suffer from anxiety and suicidality disorders when exposed to everyday pollutants. The team believe it’s a combination of neighborhood stressors and poor air quality that contribute to depression and anxiety in children.
“Collectively, these studies contribute to the growing body of evidence that exposure to air pollution during early life and childhood may contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems in adolescence,” said study co-author Patrick Ryan, PhD.
PM2.5 may cause ADHD in children
In another study, this time from a team in Spain, prenatal exposure to air pollution is linked to ADHD in children. Children with ADHD (Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder) often find it difficult to pay attention and they can seem impulsive. Why some children develop ADHD is still not fully understood. There is some evidence to suggest it runs in familes. Other factors that increase a child’s risk include, being born too early or drug and alcohol use during pregnancy.
The team from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), focused on how pollution known as PM2.5, could affect a baby’s brain before they are born. They found that exposure to this particular type of pollution in the third trimester of pregnancy, changes the structure of the developing brain and may be why some children go on to develop ADHD in later years.
Air pollution affects us all
Air pollution affects every aspect of our health, right the way through our lives. It can increase our risk of respiratory disease, heart disease, cancers, strokes, obesity and Alzheimer’s. It can affect a baby’s development in the womb, causing them to be born small or too early. And now this latest research shows it can also impact a child’s mental health, causing depression, anxiety and conditions such as ADHD.
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