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New Study Links Poor Air Quality To Child Mental Health

June 15, 2016
Public Health

A major new study in Sweden has become the first to link air pollution to increased levels of mental illness in children. Researchers at Umeå University found that relatively small increases in air quality were associated with significant increases in the number of children requiring treatment for psychiatric problems.

The study, which has been published in the journal BMJ Open, looked at the exposure to air pollution of 500,000 under 18’s across Sweden, comparing the findings to records of medicines prescribed for mental illness ranging from sedatives to anti-psychotics.

The results showed that exposure to air pollution produced a 9% greater risk of at least one psychiatric diagnosis for every 10 microgram per cubic meter increase in nitrogen dioxide; socioeconomic and demographic factors were also taken into account.

Speaking about the research, Prof Frank Kelly of King’s College London, said; “This builds on existing evidence that children are particularly sensitive to poor air quality probably because their lifestyles increase the dose of air pollution they are exposed too – i.e. they are more active – and that developing organs may be more vulnerable until they fully mature.” Whilst the research cannot provide a direct causal link between air quality and mental illness, it does provide a plausible mechanism. It is likely to lead to further studies in countries that have higher levels of air pollution than those found in Sweden.

You can view a full copy of the report HERE