Air pollution causes mental illnesses?

air pollution causes mental illnesses?

Air pollution may influence the incidence of mental illnesses. This is the result of a study with health and environmental data from the USA and denmark.

Scientists led by atif khan and andrey rzhetsky of the university of chicago found higher rates of bipolar disorder and other illnesses in regions with particularly poor air quality, they report in the journal PLOS biology.

For the USA, the researchers analyzed data from health insurance companies for 151 million people. They examined the prevalence of four psychiatric disorders – bipolar disorder, major depression, personality disorder and schizophrenia) – as well as the neurological disorders epilepsy and parkinson’s disease.

"These neurological and psychiatric diseases ? Both financially and socially very costly ? Appear to be linked to the physical environment, especially air quality," khan is quoted as saying in a release from his university. The researchers compared the health data with the air quality of the respective residential area, which they took from information provided by the U.S. Environmental protection agency (EPA).

Results: in regions with the poorest air quality, six percent more people developed severe depression than in areas with particularly good air quality. In the case of bipolar disorder, the risk of illness was increased by as much as 27 percent.

In the second part of the study, the researchers then analyzed a danish treatment and environmental registry that includes more than 1.4 million people born in denmark between early 1979 and late 2002. Here, the rate of severe depression in areas with the highest air pollution was a good 50 percent higher than in the particularly clean areas. Researchers also found elevated levels of other mental illnesses in denmark: the risk of personality disorders was 162 percent higher, and that of schizophrenia 148 percent higher. For the bipolar storm, the increase of 24 percent was similar to the U.S. Data.

The authors explain the difference in results by the diversity of the data analyzed: "it is likely that this difference is due to the limited resolution of pollutant estimates for the U.S. Data," they write. But the composition of pollutants or country-specific genetic variations could also play a role.

In a commentary in PLOS biology, john ioannidis of stanford university, california, criticizes the study for "significant shortcomings and a long series of possible biases.". In the U.S. Part, for example, the environmental data were measured in the years 2000 to 2005, while the disease diagnoses came from the years 2003 to 2013. "These analyses, as well as subsequent studies in this field, have benefited from rigorous, carefully established protocols that are registered before the data are analyzed," ioannidis writes.

Despite this criticism, tilo kircher of the marburg university clinic for psychiatry and psychotherapy considers the study to be an important contribution to medical research: "it will hopefully spur further research in this area."The strength of the study is the huge amount of data.

Kircher considers the results plausible, although he is surprised that the analysis of the U.S. Data showed a clear connection with air pollution only for the bipolar disorder. The expert refers to results from animal experiments, according to which fine dust and pollutants could trigger inflammations in the brain.

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