Does air pollution affect mental health in later life?

In a study of women aged 80 and over, living in places with higher exposure to air pollution was associated with increased symptoms of depression. The results have been published in Journal of the American Society of Geriatrics.

When looking at individual air pollutants, a team led by investigators from the University of Southern California found that long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide or fine particulate air pollution was associated with increased symptoms of depression, but with only a minimal effect. The results also indicated that depressive symptoms may play a role in linking long-term exposure to air pollution with memory decline after more than 10 years of exposure.

Lead author Dr. Andrew Petkus said, “This is the first study showing how exposure to air pollution affects symptoms of depression as well as the correlation between symptoms and subsequent memory decline not found in older adults under the age of 80.”

Senior author Jiu-Chiuan Chen, MD, ScD added, “We know that exposure in late life to ambient air pollutants speeds up brain aging and increases the risk of developing dementia, but our new findings suggest that an older population may respond to neurotoxicity to air pollution. In a different way it needs further investigation. ”


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