Air pollution has a long history of physically affecting people’s health, but recent studies suggest that it also has a negative impact on mental health as well.

Exposure to air pollution, especially fine particulate matter, is shown to be associated with impaired cognitive function and increased depression. Why these fine particles can increase depression is not yet understood, but they are believed to be capable of making otherwise mentally healthy individuals prone to depression.

Those with a genetic predisposition towards depression might experience worsening symptoms when exposed to air pollution. It can increase the likelihood of feelings of depression as well as depression episodes.

Dr. Hao Yang Tan, a scientist at the Lieber Institute in Baltimore, said, “The study reveals for the first time how air pollution and genes interact with one another to impact important cognitive and emotional circuitry of the brain. Air pollution is changing the expression of genes that are conducive to depression.”

The study was conducted by analyzing the effects of air pollution on 352 otherwise healthy individuals. The study showed that those exposed to higher amounts of air pollution had higher levels of anxiety and depression.

High exposure to air pollution with fine particulate matter also affected cognitive function, limiting problem-solving skills and generally dulling cognitive abilities.

This study gives us insight into just how dangerous air pollution can be on the whole of human health, providing yet another reason why more regulations need to be put in place to cut air pollution around the world.  

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