To the numerous consequences that air pollution has on health it could be added an increase of risk of depression when exposure is prolonged over time. This is the result of a study published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health and led by a team from the Barcelonaβeta Brain Research Center and the Global Health Institute of Barcelona (ISGlobal).
The study was carried out based on the data obtained in the epidemiological questionnaires responded by the participants of the Alfa Study of the Pasqual Maragall Foundation, funded by Obra Social "la Caixa", and data on the concentration of different air pollutants in Barcelona. The main objective of the scientific team was to establish possible links between long-term exposure to air pollution and antecedents for depression and anxiety.
The results show a significant association between long-term exposure to atmospheric pollution (NOx, NO2, PM2.5 and PM10) and an increased risk of depression, as well as an increase in the use of antidepressants. Although no association regarding the risk of anxiety was observed, it was found that people exposed to higher concentrations of air pollutants were more likely to use anxiolytics, specifically benzodiazepines.
"Although there is still no consensus in the scientific literature on the possible relationship between exposure to air pollution and depression, the results of our study are in line with other investigations that found similar associations," explains Cristina Vert, ISGlobal researcher and first author of work.
Next steps: Alzheimer's and pollution
According to Dr. Marta Crous-Bou, BBRC researcher and co-author of the study, "the results are added to the list of potential detrimental effects of air pollution on health." In any case, she insists that "more studies are needed, especially longitudinal studies and in wider populations, to confirm our results." The researcher is currently expanding this study, with the objective of analyzing the presence of environmental contaminants with the cognitive performance of people at risk of Alzheimer's disease.