Air Pollution Linked to Depression in Adolescents

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Furthermore, adolescents are the common population group that is more exposed to air pollution than any other age group due to increased outdoors time.

Ozone is a gas that is produced as a by-product of air pollution. Exposure to higher levels of ozone has been linked to physical health risks, ranging from increased susceptibility to respiratory disorders such as


About 4.2 million deaths every year occur due to exposure to air pollution.
Despite the vastness of this hazardous gas and the seriousness of its effects, little research has been conducted examining the association between ozone exposure and mental health effects.

Moreover, the majority of research in this area has focused on adults despite calls from psychologists to consider the contribution of pollutants to child developmental outcomes.

To overcome these shortcomings, new research was conducted. It is the first to link ozone levels to the development of depression symptoms in adolescents over time.

Youthful Findings

Researchers analyzed data from a previous study about early life stress with 213 adolescent participants (aged 9 to 13 years old) in the San Francisco Bay area.

“I think our findings speak to the importance of considering air pollution’s impact on mental health in addition to physical health,” said lead researcher Erika Manczak, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver.

Then they compared data about the adolescents’ mental health over four years with Census tracts for their home addresses and air quality data for those tracts from the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Adolescents who lived in areas with relatively higher ozone levels showed a significant increase in depressive symptoms over time,
even though the ozone levels in their neighborhoods didn’t exceed state or national air quality standards.

Those symptoms included a persistent feeling of sadness or hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and suicidal thoughts.

These findings were not affected by the participant’s sex, age, race, household income, parental education, or socioeconomic characteristics of their neighborhood. This highlights the fact that even low levels of ozone exposure have potentially harmful mental health effects.

Ozone can contribute to high levels of inflammation in the body,
which may fasten the onset and development of depression in adolescents.

The study included a small sample size from one area of the United States. And so, these findings may be correlational and cannot prove that ozone levels caused an increase in depressive symptoms. It is also possible that other components of air pollution could be a factor besides ozone.


Since air pollution disproportionately affects communities, they should consider ways to reduce ozone exposure by holding sporting events indoors whenever possible and limiting driving during peak hours of air pollution alerts.

Investing in clean and renewable energy sources that reduce air pollution also could be helpful.

State and Federal air quality standards should be made stricter, and we should tightly adhere to these regulations on industries that contribute to pollution.


  1. Air Pollution and Your Health
  2. Adolescent mental health
  3. Dealing with Teen Depression

Source: Medindia

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