How Air Pollution Affects Mental Health

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How Air Pollution Affects Mental Health

Many people have worries about the state of our planet and the air we are breathing. With an increase in industry, clean and fresh air may be harder to come by. While many have concerns with how this air is impacting our respiratory health, new studies show that physical health shouldn’t be our only concern. As a mental health facility in South Florida, we are always concerned with the state of mental health, but some unlikely factors may be making these problems worse.

Studies Find Connection Between Air Pollution and Mental Health

Research has already found air pollution can contribute to lung cancer, asthma, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s.1 While physical health is important, the problems do not stop there. New research studies are looking at the effects of air pollution on mental health, and the results are troubling.

Study after study has shown that pollution affects mental health in a negative way. One study found that long-term exposure to air pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide was associated with higher rates of subjective stress, depressiveness, and suicide idealization.2 This isn’t the only study to find a connection between air pollution and mental health. Other research has shown that long-term exposure to particulate matter increased the risk of developing major depressive disorder.3 Both of these studies focused on how air pollution affects mental health in adults, but children are being affected as well.

Even short-term exposure to ambient air pollution has been associated with exasperated psychiatric disorder symptoms in children one or two days after exposure.4 For children who grow up in high traffic air pollution areas, the results are even worse. This long-term exposure is associated with higher incidences of generalized anxiety and self-reported depression.4 While may people are quick to cite the rise in social media and the internet as a cause for poorer mental health in the younger generations, air quality may be playing a larger role than most people realize. If pollution continues to get worse, there may be a rise in mental health problems, and as a behavioral health facility, this is concerning.

Regardless of whether it is from the air you breathe or not, mental health problems should not be ignored. If left untreated, these issues may continue to get worse and lead to secondary issues like substance abuse. Especially because depression can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions, you should seek treatment; our depression treatment center in Florida may be able to help.

Mental illness shouldn’t be something you have to battle on your own. If you or a loved one is struggling with their mental health or a substance abuse problem, get help today. At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, our goal is to help patients live a happier and healthier life. Call us today at 561-220-3981 to learn more.



  1. CleanTechnica – The Brain, Air Pollution, & CO2 — The Years Project Connects The Dots (Videos)
  2. NCBI – Long-term exposure to ambient air pollutants and mental health status: A nationwide population-based cross-sectional study
  3. NCBI – Long-Term Fine Particulate Matter Exposure and Major Depressive Disorder in a Community-Based Urban Cohort.
  4. Cincinnati Children’s – Studies Link Air Pollution to Mental Health Issues in Children


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