Air Pollution May Be Raising Your Anxiety: Here's Why

First Posted: Mar 25, 2015 04:03 PM EDT

Previous studies have linked air pollution to an increased risk of a number of health issues. A new study published in the BMJ takes an in-depth look at how this environmental issue can affect stroke risk and anxiety. 

Long-term exposure to soot and smog could now be blame for health-related tension, particularly for those living within roughly 150 to 650 feet of a major road.

For the study, researchers at Harvard and John's Hopkins universities examined numerous studies that zeroed-in on the health effects of particle pollution. They looked at the association between short term air pollution exposure and stroke related hospital admissions and deaths by analyzing 103 observational studies in 28 countries in various parts of the world.

In the mix were carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone with particulate matter that included the following: PM 2.5 (fine particles less than 2.5 µm in size) and PM 10 (coarse particles less than 10 µm in size).

This analysis also suggested for every 10 micrograms of PM 10 and PM 2.5 per meter cubed of air, there is 1.1 percent increased chance of stroke hospitalization or death.

As part of the 2004 Nurses' Health study, 71,271 women were included, showing that higher pollution levels were linked to higher symptoms of anxiety overall ranging from avoidance to heightened worry.

"Since air pollution causes systemic inflammation, it is reasonable that researchers have now turned to the arena of mental health, a leading priority for research given the relative absence of known modifiable risk factors and a high and growing disease burden," Michael Brauer, a public health professor at the University of British Columbia, noted in an editorial accompanying the two studies in the BMJ.

Air pollution has been linked to a number of other health problems, including the exposure of pregnant women and an increased risk of autism for their future baby (and not to mention, respiratory issues.)

Furthermore, as researchers continue to learn about the harmful effects of air pollutants, it pushes officials to better manage these environmental issues in order to prevent their related health dangers.

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