Is Air Pollution Damaging To Your Mental Health?

Economic advancements in many developed and developing nations are prone to air pollution. This makes more people suffer from depression and other related mental health issues, revealed a new study led by Dr. Melinda Power, an educator at George Washington University. Yes, air pollution can damage one’s mental health!


News shook London last January 2017 on air pollution. In as short as seven days, the city has surpassed its annual air contamination level limits. The EU guidelines on Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) outflow was exceeded, as well since diesel vehicles contributed to this overage. And again, diesel is a known cause to be very unhealthy since it affects heart function and also a person’s breathing patterns. There is no doubt about it. At that time, the air in London was “full of grime” to the point that it can cause severe damage. It can truly make anyone’s life troublesome.

Depression, extreme sadness, anxiousness, excessive worry, too much fear, the onset of Alzheimer’s, and poor performance at work and school – these are just some of the mental health issues that the people of London are facing because of this air contamination. The research is backed up by scientific grounds, and even the scientists cannot be conservative about the results. There is brown haze looming London skies, and yes, the experts agree that it can be perilous to their physical and mental health combined.

“Mental health is complex, and it would be a lot easier if we were like cars.” – Dr. Mitch Keil, clinical psychologist

Dr. Power was firm when she said that they need more studies to support their theories on air pollution affecting a person’s psychological wellbeing. But the physical evidence is strong, as she says, women in London can develop anxiety disorders due to nervousness, and it’s because of the environment that they are in.

The media is also keen on reporting the news – is air contamination causing all these troubles with people’s mental health, especially feelings of tension and misery? It could be that social media apps can influence our minds that the world is “ending” because of pollution, and in a way, it can affect the way people think and feel. But the reality is that air contamination is damaging and as for science, they will resort to the second-best experimental body – mice.

Dr. Randy Nelson said that they got into the study by chance. (He is a professor at the Ohio State University.) The doctor saw that mice were used in a study in an airborne setting (and it showed various heart-induced ailments). He got the idea that if air was contaminated, and using mice as the subjects, they could ascertain if it indeed affects psychological or mental health.


With this, Dr. Nelson and his team exposed mice to air contaminants which were similar to that of the air in London. They did this for ten months, exposing mice to contaminated air. Results were conclusive – it took the mice a longer time to finish the labyrinth (as the months went on) and that behavior was attributed to the contaminated air. They were also acting differently, and they feared the water – the mice didn’t want to swim. According to Duke University researchers who also did the same thing (exposing mice to polluted air), pregnant mice were also acting strange, displaying extreme anxious behavior.

In a study by scientists at the University of Utah, it was concluded that air pollution increased the risk of suicide in older men. It also has a great influence on their physical wellbeing and rational thinking. One may feel irate, pressured, and constantly sick because of air pollution. And it just seems that people can’t do anything about it. Karen Doll, Psy.D., L.P. said that mental health  “Suffering has complicated factors that interface including: physical, psychological, social, emotional and neurological.”

Where will this lead us now? At this time, the World Health Organization has set out its advocacy on researching about air contamination and its connection with damaging the mental health of people. They are also working in conjunction with the European Commission since they are the ones setting out the guidelines on air quality. The government is aware that they need to act on this problem sooner because air contamination will destroy everything.

The point is very simple. Air pollution may not be directly responsible for people having mental health issues, but because of the physical effect it brings people – excessive coughing, squinting, difficulty in breathing, and more – it can complicate a person’s mental wellbeing. It can create fear in them which can turn into anxiety or depression. With that, the psychological factors are evident. And even if people don’t breathe in the dirty air, when they look up, they experience extreme fear. Wouldn’t you feel the same if you see brown skies, instead of blue? “Take a mental health day, take time off from work and refuel & recharge, whatever that looks like for you personally.” A reminder from Audra J Lee LMFT.

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