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Air Pollution’s Hidden Danger: Depression and Anxiety

A pair of new studies published in the JAMA network of scientific journals suggests that long-term exposure to air pollution may increase the risk of depression and anxiety. According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, long-term exposure to elevated levels of air pollution was associated with an increased risk of late-onset depression in the elderly.

The other study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that long-term exposure to even low levels of air pollutants was linked with an increased incidence of depression and anxiety. The researchers found that pollutants, such as fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone, were significantly harmful to mental health. They also discovered that the elderly may be particularly susceptible to pollution-linked depression due to their pulmonary and neural vulnerability.

For the study on the effects of air pollution on elderly Americans, researchers from Harvard and Emory University examined the data of nearly nine million people on Medicare, and found that socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals were at a much higher risk of late-life depression due to both social stress and poor environmental conditions, including air pollution.

Meanwhile, the other study, conducted by researchers in Britain and China, investigated the association of long-term exposure to multiple air pollutants and the incidence of depression and anxiety. The researchers discovered that there was an increased risk for depression and anxiety even at pollution levels below UK air quality standards. These new findings add to a growing body of evidence that air pollution has adverse effects on both physical and mental health.