Traffic-related air pollution linked to childhood mental illness

Image source: Duke University

Air pollution has been linked to a long list of cognitive and emotional problems, including anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, decreased cognitive function, depression, mental decline, and suicide.

New research conducted in Sweden, a country with relatively clean air, has added psychiatric disorders in children to the list of diseases linked to air pollution, and pinpointed traffic-related air pollution as the likely culprit.

The researchers showed that the risk of children suffering from mental illness increased by 9 percent for every 10 microgram per cubic meter increase in nitrogen dioxide levels.

According to the researchers:

“The results can mean that a lower concentration of air pollution, first and foremost from traffic, may reduce psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents,” said Anna Oudin, at Umeå University, who led the study. “I would be worried myself if I lived in an area with high air pollution.”

Read about this research in one of the following news articles, or review the research report in the journal BMJ Open

Air pollution affects young people’s psychiatric health, Science Daily

Air pollution linked to increased mental illness in children, Guardian

Air Pollution May Affect Children’s Mental Health, Study finds increased psychiatric disorders among kids living in areas with higher vehicle emissions, Earth Island Journal

Association between neighbourhood air pollution concentrations and dispensed medication for psychiatric disorders in a large longitudinal cohort of Swedish children and adolescents, BMJ Open