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Mental Health: Can Air Pollution Affect Your Mental Wellbeing?

Reducing the prevalence of air pollution can aid in reducing the burden of mental health disorders among individuals of all ages.

Mental Health: Can Air Pollution Affect Your Mental Wellbeing?

Air pollution triggers the body's stress response system

Air pollution is one of the most significant health hazards of the modern era. It is an issue that affects millions of individuals worldwide, with pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and ozone affecting both the indoor and outdoor air quality of a region.

While the severe effects of air pollution on physical health are well documented, recent studies have also shown that air pollution can have a significant impact on mental wellbeing, particularly in terms of long-term exposure.

Chronic exposure to air pollution can lead to chronic inflammation, which has been implicated in the onset of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. This inflammation impacts the brain, particularly areas responsible for regulating emotions, leading to mood disturbances.

Furthermore, air pollution affects the brain's development in early life; various studies have shown that neurodevelopment can be impacted negatively by exposure to environmental and atmospheric pollutants. Children exposed to air pollution have been shown to have higher levels of symptoms associated with stress and anxiety, behavioral problems, sleep disturbances, and ADHD. This effect appears to be long-lasting, with a higher risk of mental health disorders persisting into adulthood.

Air pollution can worsen and aggravate pre-existing mental health conditions, too, primarily by increasing the levels of stress that an individual experiences. Air pollution impacts the body's stress response system and triggers the release of a hormone called cortisol, which can interfere with the brain's functioning and lead to anxiety and depression.

Pollution also impacts cognitive function, which can lead to memory lapses, confusion, and brain fog. The cognitive function of older people is often compromised when exposed to air pollution, with those who have to rely on public transport or live close to busy roads at a higher risk of cognitive decline. This increased exposure to airborne pollutants can lead to a reduction in functional ability.

You can also follow certain tips to reduce the damage that might be caused by the air pollution.

Tips to reduce adverse effects of air pollution:

  1. Use air pollution monitors or check online air quality indexes to keep track of local air quality. Avoid going outdoors or exercising outdoors on days and in places where air pollution levels are high.
  2. Use personal protective equipment such as N95 masks or respirators to reduce exposure to the harmful pollutants.
  3. Stay indoors as much as possible, especially on days when air pollution levels are high. Make sure to reduce indoor air pollution by keeping windows and doors closed and using an air purifier.
  4. Regular physical exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can help strengthen your immune system and alleviate some symptoms associated with air pollution.
  5. Drinking enough water helps flush out toxins from the body and keeps your body hydrated, which in turn helps your body deal with the effects of air pollution.
  6. Stress can exacerbate some symptoms associated with air pollution. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, mindfulness, or yoga to help alleviate stress.

In conclusion, air pollution is a widespread problem that impacts physical, emotional, and cognitive health. It is vital that efforts are made to tackle air pollution, not only for the sake of our physical health but also for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

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Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.


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