Air Quality Index - How Can It Impact Your Mental Health?
Mental health conditions are a cause of concern globally. More than three hundred million people suffer from issues like depression. The number is growing, and the last decade saw an eighteen percent jump or fifty-four million new additions.
Research data suggests that air pollution exposure can be one of the chief causative agents for mental illness. It can wreak the earliest damages that can have a long-lasting impact on cognition and mental health.
The major areas that the researchers in this area try to address are:
- The varying impact of air pollution on adults and children
- The most detrimental pollutants for mental health
- How to protect everyone around
How Does It Impact Mental Health?
The researches done in this field suggest the increasing impact of polluted air on mental health. More studies are getting commissioned to have in-depth analysis for the identification of the exact factors.
Data also suggests that there are profound risks even from brief exposure. Short-term exposure to air pollution can link to a higher risk of mental disorders. It can include conditions like schizophrenia and depression. The damage can start in the early childhood days.
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Impact on Children
According to the World Health Organization, more than ninety percent of children breathe polluted air globally. The toxicity of the pollutants is at alarming levels, and they consider it to be detrimental to health and development.
The development of the brain cells and behavior carries till early adulthood or late teens. The impact of air pollution during this growth phase, especially PM 2.5, can be significantly high on their emotional and mental development. It also exhibits a profound effect on behavioral and cognitive outcomes.
Extreme cases of mental health symptoms resulting from higher exposure to PM 2.5 can lead to disturbances in young children. A few of the research citations also suggest that these are severe enough to increase the frequency of emergency room visits. It is primarily for psychiatric evaluation.
A study by Environmental Health Perspectives of 2019 suggests that the short-term impact of PM 2.5 exposure can lead to children opting for psychiatric emergencies for:
- Behaviors or thoughts linked to suicidal tendencies
- Major life events triggered adjustment disorders like anxiety, sadness, and intense stress
Therefore, according to this study, even a ten microns increase of PM 2.5 per cubic meter of air is responsible for significantly increasing the number of children visiting the hospital for severe psychiatric symptoms.
Impact on Adults
Studies suggest that the impact of air pollution is also significant on the mental health of adults.
A research took place in 2019 with the mental health data of one hundred and fifty-one million US citizens and one and a half million from Denmark. The research aimed to specifically study the impact of air pollution on a few psychiatric disorders like:
- Bipolar disorder
- Personality disorder
- Major depressive disorder
The results were quite astonishing, and it stated that the prolonged exposure to increased pollution gives rise to bipolar disorder cases by seventeen percent.
Depression diagnosis has also shot up by six percent and personality disorders by twenty percent in some cases due to air pollution. Particulate matters and ultrafine particles are on the top of the list of significant factors that can impact mental health, as per the researchers.
Studies also suggest the links between:
- Inflammation of the nervous system by pollutant’s action on lungs
- Increase in inflammatory cytokines induced by nervous system inflammation
- Long-term brain damage by pollutants reaching the brain cells through the olfactory receptors of the nose
- The limbic system and the brain can get hit by the pollutants
- Repeated exposure to PM 2.5 can have a catastrophic effect on the limbic system
How to Protect Yourself?
It is very challenging to maintain and improve mental health conditions during your lifetime. However, you can curb the impact of the illness that links to air pollution.
You can check the air quality index of an area to take a call whether you want to settle there or not. These apps show the AQI for cities as well as counties. For example, If you are planning to live in the state of Washington, you can check Walla Walla air quality, or any other county/city that you have shortlisted. It can help you make a more informed decision.
Although there are many issues that this article highlights in the above segment, you can choose to apply various countermeasures to curb the impact of air pollution on mental health. These can be seeking treatment, regular monitoring of air quality, and improving indoor air quality.
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