From: Steve Williams, Care2, More from this Affiliate
Published June 13, 2016 12:23 PM

How Air Pollution Impacts Childhood Mental Health

Air pollution is a known risk factor for certain mental health problems in adults, but a new study also links high rates of air pollution to poorer psychiatric health in children and adolescents.

To investigate this link, researchers from Umeå University in Sweden examined what is known as “register-based” data. All medications given to Swedish people are registered, and in this case, researchers zeroed in on individuals under age 18 from Stockholm, Västra Götaland, Skåne and Västerbotten. They then looked at this information in connection with the Swedish National Register, which logs air pollution.

Due to the socioeconomic range in these regions, researchers first had to control for factors that might affect the outcome, including variety in wealth and ethnicity.

Researchers found that air pollution levels do seem to impact adolescent and childhood psychiatric diagnoses, but they couldn’t directly measure rates of mental illness.

Furthermore, the risk of having at least one psychiatric diagnosis increased with just a 10 microgram per cubic meter increase in nitrogen dioxide levels in the air.

Nitrogen dioxide is one of several air pollutants that results from road traffic and other fossil fuel use. The gas is of particular interest for both health and environment agencies because it plays a part in the formation of particulate matter and acid rain. Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide has been linked to reduced lung function and resulting breathing and respiratory problems. It has also been identified as a potential risk factor for increasing allergy rates.

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