A new study conducted by the Lieber Institute for Brain Development found that air pollution can substantially increase the risk of depression in healthy people with a genetic predisposition to the illness.
Air pollution has received a lot of spotlight for its impact on global climate change. While this is undoubtedly important, the coinciding health hazards should also be highlighted in the fight to curb emissions.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills about seven million people around the globe each year.
In addition, ninety-nine percent of people breathe in air that exceeds WHO pollutant guidelines. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency., in 2020 alone, the U.S. emitted sixty-eight million tons of pollutants into the atmosphere.
Clearly, air pollution is a terrible cause of morbidity. But, the correlations between air pollution and physical illnesses– such as respiratory diseases– have been known.
So, instead, this study was the first of its kind to investigate the correlation between air pollution and depression– a mental illness.
The study included just over three hundred and fifty healthy adults who live in Beijing. Beijing was an ideal location since the city documents pollution levels daily.
First, the researchers calculated each participant’s polygenic depression risk score through genotyping.
This score represents the genetic likelihood of suffering from depression. Then, the researchers collected each participant’s air pollution exposure for six months. The participants also underwent cognitive testing during this time.
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