Studies show that air pollution causes depression and anxiety, proving other harmful effects of burning fossil fuels.
It is no secret that the effects of contamination and deterioration of the environment, generated by modern habits, are reflected in the environment and in our physical health. But now, studies have come to prove that the air pollution causes depression and anxiety.
Previous studies have already been able to show that air pollution causes more deaths than alcohol consumption and the tobacco habit, however, its negative influence on mental health had never been proven.
Air pollution causes depression and anxiety
The conclusion is the result of investigations by a group of scientists from China and the United Kingdom, which states: exposure to air pollution, when prolonged and even at low levels, is related to cases of depression and anxiety.
To reach this conclusion, researchers followed 390,000 adults living in the United Kingdom over 11 years.
In the study, it can be read that the burning of fossil fuels, the factor that most favors air pollution, has a negative impact on our mental health.
You know that conversation about leaving your car in the garage and betting on a carpool network, using public transport, scooters or bicycles? And the one about saving energy, investing in self consumption and hire supply companies that sell green energy? There is also that talk about consuming less, recycling more and being more bio in everyday choices. Well, all these conversations really have a reason to be.
The published study states that a large part of the pollutants present in the air, also composed of fine particles, nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide, are regularly emitted into the air from the burning of fossil fuels used by vehicles and power plants, but also industrial work and construction equipment.
In other words, many of our daily habits are making people sick – also on a mental and emotional level.
This was not the only study that brought similar results. Other previous investigations have already concluded that air pollution negatively impacts the brain of adults, even being capable of causing dementia and other types of cognitive degradation.
The most recent study, published in 2023 in the publication Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatryassessed that mental illnesses are one of the consequences of burning fossil fuels.
Mental health and pollution: how are they related?
It is not yet clear how the relationship between air pollution and the cases of anxiety and depression analyzed in the various studies is established, but it is known that there is a connection to be discovered.
The effects on children and adolescents
Pollution and the mental health of children and adolescents is, likewise, a topic that is under intense analysis by researchers around the world.
From the point of view of physical health, it is known that asthma, which affects young people so much, can be caused by high levels of air pollution. Today, it is also known that this respiratory problem is linked to some symptoms caused by mental health problems.
For now, with regard to the mental health of children and young people, there are scientific references that consistently link concentration, attention and learning difficulties to the effects of atmospheric pollution and climate change.
But air pollution can also have other negative impacts on young people. A situation that serves as an example is that, eventually, in some regions of Asia, air pollution forces the closure of activities for a period – that is, the temporary closure of schools. We all know, and we have come to understand well after the restrictions imposed by past confinements, that children and young people who are deprived of socializing in the school environment are more subject to negative effects in terms of mental health.
A curious fact reported by North American researchers is that, during a period of gas leakage in a Los Angeles teaching establishment, there was a drop in the academic performance of students. After solving the problem of escape, students started to get better results and grades on the tests.
Pollution “takes away” two years from average life expectancy
In 2022, a report released by the University of Chicago pointed out that air pollution robs two years of life, based on the average expectation worldwide. This result showed that pollution kills more than alcohol, tobacco, terrorism and wars.
In an even more recent study, it was proven that it would be enough to eliminate the pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels to avoid around 50 thousand deaths per year, reducing health care expenses by more than 500 thousand euros.
Energy transition and health
Researchers around the world have been warning for a long time about the consequences of pollution on our physical health, highlighting serious harmful effects such as respiratory infections, lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and more health complications, such as premature births and low birth weight.
Scientists have publicly defended the importance of investing in energy transition and reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, stressing that governments must understand the situation as a case of public health, since the effects of air pollution are proven to be associated with good -physical – and now emotional – well-being of populations.