Air Quality Linked To Mental Health

Regular readers of this blog (and if you’re not a regular reader, why aren’t you?) know that we’ve addressed the link between poor air quality and impaired thinking. If you recall, various studies conducted in controlled settings showed that increases in CO2 levels and stale air of office environments suppressed test scores of people doing online tasks.

But now, a study conducted in Sweden and published by medical journal BMJ Open has provided substantive proof that poor air quality can affect one’s mental health as well.

A study by researchers at Umeå University sought to determine if there was a correlation between levels of pollution and requests for help among children and young adults in the form of prescription requests based on psychiatric diagnoses. Because all medication requests are registered, it was easy for the study team to cross reference requests against a database charting pollution levels across Sweden.

Researchers found spikes in medication requests from children and adolescents in cities hardest hit by air pollution—there was a nine percent increase when there was more nitrogen dioxide in the air. Coincidentally, these were areas where automobile traffic was heavier, leading researchers to theorize that a reduction in automobile emissions may lead to a decrease in mental health stress.