Young people more likely to have depression at 18 if exposed to dirtier air at age 12
Last modified on Wed 30 Jan 2019
Children who lived in areas with higher air pollution when younger are significantly more likely to have developed major depression by the age of 18, according to research.
In the first analysis of how common air pollutants affect teenage mental health, researchers found young people were three to four times more likely to have depression at 18 if they had been exposed to dirtier air at age 12. Comparison with earlier work indicates that air pollution is a greater risk factor than physical abuse in raising the risk of teenage depression.
The scientists said their findings are particularly significant because 75% of mental health problems begin in childhood or adolescence, when the brain is developing rapidly. The work also suggests a link between toxic air and antisocial behaviour, but more work is needed to confirm this. A larger study is expected later this year.
“High levels of air pollution are just not good for you, and particularly for your children, whether that be physical or mental health,” said Helen Fisher at Kings College London, who led the research. “It is sensible to try to avoid the areas with the highest levels of air pollution. We really should be pushing for local and national government to reduce those levels.”
The study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, combined information from a group of children in London with high-resolution data on air pollution levels.