Could Air Pollution and Depression Be Linked?

In recent years, depression disorders have become more prevalent than ever before. Data from as recently as 2017 suggest that about 7 percent of American adults had had one major depressive episode within the last year. While there are many factors that could be driving up depression rates, new research suggests that air pollution could be playing a role. Here’s what you need to know about air pollution and depression and previously unexplored link between them.


What Does the New Research Tell Us About Air Pollution and Depression?


A new study of adults living in London found that exposure to higher levels of particulate air pollution nearly doubled the prevalence of mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety. Nitrogen dioxide, another common air pollutant produced by internal combustion engines, was also associated with a 39 percent increase in mental health disorders.


In order to arrive at these findings, researchers controlled for other factors associated with depression. These include socioeconomic status and genetic predisposition. Even after controlling for these factors, though, air pollution still showed a considerable effect on overall rates of depression and anxiety.


It should be noted that this study did not identify a mechanism by which air pollution increases the risk of mental health issues. There is, however, some evidence that low air quality can have negative effects on the brain, potentially increasing the risk of mental health problems. More research is needed to determine how this connection works.


Why Air Pollution Is an Important Target in Reducing Mental Health Problems


Arguably the most promising part of this study is the fact that air pollution is an addressable factor in the risk of anxiety and depression disorders. While socioeconomic and genetic factors certainly play a role in mental health, they are much harder to address than environmental factors.


Based on these findings, it should hypothetically be possible to reduce the prevalence of depressive disorders by improving air quality. Given the other known health and environmental benefits of reducing air pollution, many countries are already taking steps to clean up their air. The same efforts could improve overall mental health outcomes, potentially offering an actionable step forward in addressing mental disorders at the population level.


Can Air Purification Play a Part?


While larger changes are needed to address the root problem of air pollution, using a residential air purifier can at least help to reduce your exposure to low quality air in your home. Ideally, you should select an air purifier that features both HEPA and carbon filters. HEPA filtration helps to remove solid particles from the air, while activated carbon filters can capture gases and VOCs. Together, these two types of filters can address both major components of automotive and industrial air pollution.


Since the mechanism linking air pollution and depression is not yet understood, there’s no guarantee that air purification can improve mental health outcomes. Given the increasing number of health issues linked to low-quality air, though, we believe it’s important to take as many steps as possible to limit exposure to dangerous air pollution.


Have questions about using air purifiers to keep pollution out of your home air? We’re here to help! Feel free to contact us with your questions, and we’ll be happy to provide you with answers and personalized product recommendations based on your needs.