a recent study links air pollution and mental illness

Depression and bipolar disorder were found to be more common in major cities.
Photo by Ivan Ruberto

While we know that air pollution is certainly terrible for general health, a new study published in the PLOS Biology journal suggests that it can also contribute to mental illness diagnoses. After sampling over 150 million individuals in the US, researchers found an association between pollution exposure and diagnosis of bipolar disorder and depression.

Scientists looked at health insurance data over a period of 11 years, comparing claims of bipolar, depression, personality disorder, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy, with air, water, and land quality throughout the country. Results found that in areas with the worst air quality, notably in large coastal cities like New York and LA, there was a 27 percent increase in bipolar diagnoses and a six percent increase in cases of depression.

The study was also conducted in Denmark, yielding similar results. While lately it seems conversations around mental health are often centered around the ills of social media, perhaps it’s time we talk about how our other habits are harming us too.