Polluted air has long been known to be detrimental to the human body causing heart and lung problems, and aggravating asthma.
Air pollution, is in fact, one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide killing millions per year.
Findings of new research now suggest that dirty air is also as bad to the mind as to the body. Study researcher Helen Fisher of King’s College London and colleagues found that psychotic experiences tend to be more common among teenagers who live in the most polluted areas.
Psychotic experiences are less extreme forms of symptoms experienced by people with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. These are characterized by hearing or seeing something that others don’t.
Psychotic experiences are more common in adolescence than adulthood. However, young people who have psychotic experiences are more likely to develop psychotic disorders, suicidal behavior and a range of other mental health problems.
Fisher and colleagues found that psychotic experiences are common in adolescents with the highest exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and very small particulate matter (PM2.5), even after taking into account risk factors for psychosis.
NO2 and NOx together accounted for 60 percent of the link between living in an urban environment and having psychotic experiences.
“In this study, air pollution exposure-particularly NO2 and NOx-was associated with increased odds of adolescent psychotic experiences, which partly explained the association between urban residency and adolescent psychotic experiences,” Fisher and colleagues wrote in their study.
Air Pollution And Mental Illness
The study did not prove a causal association but it nonetheless suggests a possible link between pollution and psychosis. It is not the first study to suggest a potential association between the quality of air and mental health.
An earlier study published in BMJ Open also found a link between a relatively small increase in air pollution and increased mental illness in children.