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Air pollution affects young people’s psychiatric health

air pollution in india

Smog has been a part of modern life since the industrial revolution, unfortunately all that pollution isn’t just hurting the environment — but come on, you saw this coming… right? New research from Sweden indicates that dispensed medication for psychiatric diagnosis can be related to air pollution concentrations. More and more studies show that the brain and human cognitive development are affected by pollution.

In a new study, the correlation between exposure to air pollution in residential areas and children’ and adolescents’ psychiatric health was looked at. This was done by looking at register-based data, where dispensed medications of all Swedes are registered, together with Swedish National Register data of air pollution concentrations. The entire population under 18 in the Swedish counties of Stockholm, Västra Götaland, Skåne and Västerbotten were studied.

Stockholm, Västra Götaland and Skåne counties are located in the more densely populated parts in the south and contain the three largest cities in Sweden with a population density of between 68 and 338/km2 whereas Västerbotten County lies the north of Sweden with a population density of 5/ km2. The four counties are different not just in terms of geographic location, size and population density but also with respect to migration, socioeconomic characteristics, urbanisation, and air pollution concentrations.

The results show that air pollution increased the risk of having dispensed medication for at least one psychiatric diagnosis for children and adolescents, the risk increased with 9% with a 10 microgram per cubic meter increased concentration of nitrogen dioxide even after socioeconomic and demographic factors were taken into account.

“The results can mean that a decreased concentration of air pollution, first and foremost traffic-related air pollution, may reduce psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents,” says researcher Anna Oudin, who led the study.

But really, did we expect to see some different result? Pollution is called pollution for a reason, because it is waste, garbage, and typically toxic to humans or at the very least the environment. No one should be breathing in car exhaust — yet we do it all the time to a certain extent — meanwhile in China…

air pollution china

Oudin, A., Bråbäck, L., Åström, D., Strömgren, M., & Forsberg, B. (2016). Association between neighbourhood air pollution concentrations and dispensed medication for psychiatric disorders in a large longitudinal cohort of Swedish children and adolescents BMJ Open, 6 (6) DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010004


2 responses

  1. Holly

    It is not surprising one bit that the increase of pollution effects people’s mental health. It is a good thing that factory emission’s will be cut by at least 20% by 2020. Hopefully it is sooner, and that the percentage will eventually increase! The real question here though is HOW? How is the polluted air decreasing cognitive development, and what parts of the brain exactly? I am glad research is being done on this topic, but in my opinion, it is of paramount importance that much more research is to be done. I realize that NO2 is a large summation of the problem, but what part of the cognitive development does it affect most, the attention process, conscious and/or unconscious process, the social process, or even the lateralization process, etc.? It is nice to know that this topic is something that is being looked into though, it is extremely important that pollution gets under control!


    June 8, 2016 at 1:41 pm

  2. Ya think? 🙂 Like concussions coming from boxing and playing football. Sometimes the obvious…


    June 8, 2016 at 3:45 pm

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