Study Suggests Link Between Air Pollution and Psychiatric Disorders

pgmrdlm shares a report from StudyFinds: Could the very air we breathe have an impact on our mental health? That’s the suggestion coming out of a new international study conducted in the United States and Denmark. After analyzing long-term data sets from both countries, researchers from the University of Chicago say they have identified a possible link between exposure to environmental pollution, specifically polluted air, and an increase in the onset of psychiatric and mental health problems in a population. According to the findings, air pollution is associated with increased rates of depression and bipolar disorder among both U.S. and Danish populations. That association was actually found to be even greater in Denmark, where poor air quality exposure during the first 10 years of a person’s life was found to predict a two-fold increase in the likelihood of developing schizophrenia or a personality disorder.

For the study, researchers analyzed two population data sets. The first was a U.S. health insurance claims database housing 11 years worth of claims across 151 million people. The second data set included all 1.4 million people born in Denmark between 1979-2002 who were still alive, and still living in Denmark by their 10th birthday. Air pollution levels in specific areas were measured using the air quality standards set by both countries, respectively. For example, for the U.S. the EPA’s air quality measurements were used. As far as estimating each person’s exposure to polluted air, it was a bit easier for researchers to track individual Danes because they had access to each Danish participants’ citizen ID number. For Americans, air pollution exposure estimates were limited to county areas. The study has been published in the journal PLOS Biology.


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