Study Finds that Air Pollution Causes Depression amongst Older Adults

Study Finds that Air Pollution Causes Depression amongst Older Adults

More and more research is showing that those who live in polluted places have a higher risk of depression when compared to those who don’t.

One of the first studies to look at associations between longtime exposure and a high risk of depression after the age of 64 is this one.

The research has been published in JAMA Network Open for the public to access and learn more about.

Co-author of the study published in JAMA Network Open, Dr. Xinye Qiu, says that it is “one of the biggest reasons we wanted to conduct this analysis. Surprisingly, we noticed a large number of late onset depression diagnoses in this study.”

During the study period from 2005 to 2016, the researchers examined data on more than 8.9 million individuals who received their health insurance through Medicare and discovered more than 1.52 million had been diagnosed with depression.

However, the number is likely an underestimate because studies show that depression later on in life is misdiagnosed most often than not.

As it turns out, however, the team found that long-term residents of more polluted areas had a higher risk of being diagnosed with depression.

Even at lower pollution levels, all 3 of the pollutants studied were linked to a higher risk of developing late-onset depression.

Qiu mentions that “So there is no real threshold, which means future societies will seek to eliminate this pollution or to reduce it as much as possible as it carries a real risk.”

Furthermore, socioeconomically disadvantaged groups showed stronger links between depression and exposure to nitrogen dioxide as well as particle pollution. According to the study, this may be partially due to the fact that they’re exposed to both social stress and these unfavorable conditions.

The research team found that older adults who had heart or breathing issues were especially vulnerable to developing late-life depression when exposed to nitrogen dioxide pollution.

The blood-brain barrier, a network of arteries and tissue made up of close cells that protect the brain, can be damaged by some air pollution, according to research, and this can result in the body releasing hazardous compounds that can trigger anxiety and depression.

Elderly folks may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution since aging can weaken the immune system.

As the neurological foundation for depression is not fully known, further studies will be required to fully comprehend these links.

The current study also mentions that a further hypothesis is that residents in polluted regions experience physical issues that are linked to deteriorating behavioral health.

 “Late-life depression should be a geriatric issue that the public and researchers need to be paying more attention to, like on a similar level with Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions,” Qiu said.

Since ozone pollution will rise as the world becomes warmer, the scientist is especially worried about the consequences that climate change could have on people’s mental health.

Katherine Baldwin

Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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