Short term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is giving children suicidal thoughts, according to a first of its kind study.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati examined psychiatric patient visits by children in the area, then matched the data up with localised levels of PM2.5, which revealed that in the two days that followed spikes of pollution there would be more visits to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center psychiatric unit.
The study also found that children living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods may be more susceptible to the effects of air pollution compared to other children, especially for disorders related to anxiety and suicidality.
Researchers believe it’s the first study is the first to show an association between daily outdoor air pollution levels and increased symptoms of psychiatric disorders, like anxiety and suicidality, in children.
Dr. Cole Brokamp, one of the lead authors of the study, said: ‘More research is needed to confirm these findings, but it could lead to new prevention strategies for children experiencing symptoms related to a psychiatric disorder.
‘The fact that children living in high poverty neighbourhoods experienced greater health effects of air pollution could mean that pollutant and neighbourhood stressors can have synergistic effects on psychiatric symptom severity and frequency.’
There is now a growing body of evidence that suggests a link between exposure to air pollution and poor mental health for children.
A study in May suggested a link between transport-related air pollution and childhood anxiety.
They found that children who had been exposed to higher levels of transport-related air pollution there were significant increases of the hormone myo-inositol in the brain due to inflammation, which they believe was caused by air pollution, compared to those with a low exposure.
Last month, researchers found a ‘significant link’ between exposure to air pollution in childhood and developing mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression later in life.
The study found that the US counties with the worst air quality had a 27% increase in cases of bipolar disorder and a 6% increase in cases of major depression when compared to those with the best air quality.
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