Those who live in polluted areas are more at risk of mental health problems, a new study warns.
Researchers have found links between air pollution in the UK and increased risks of depression and anxiety.
They also found that those who live with long-term exposure to even low levels of air pollution are also at risk for changes in their mental health.
What the study found about air pollution and mental health
The universities of Oxford, Beijing and Imperial College London have researched the risk of pollution increasing depression and anxiety.
Around 389,185 UK adults were included in the survey and analyzed over 11 years.
They found that those living in areas considered high-pollution zones were more likely to suffer from mental health problems, which was evident even when air quality was within official limits.
UK Biobank data further investigated the effect of air pollution, which included PM2.5 and PM10, nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide.
They found 13,131 cases of depression and 15,835 of anxiety were identified.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, said the findings signify a greater need for stricter standards and regulations when it comes to controlling air pollution.
Ian Mudway, a professor at Imperial College London who was not part of the research team, said rates of mental health disorders are higher in urban areas.
Air quality guideline
A previous study revealed that an increase in nitrogen dioxide, produced by diesel vehicles, increased the risk of mental health disorders by 39%.
It also found that pollution from tiny particles found among tire dust, burning fuel and brakes increased the risk by 18%.
Ministers are currently facing major criticism after approving a new legally binding air quality guideline allowing for more than twice the levels of fine particulate matter (PM.2.5) than the targets set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
New legislation was approved this week by peers, allowing a maximum average annual concentration of 12 micrograms per cubic meter by 2028, despite the recent WHO revision to have it at five micrograms.
Study researchers said they hoped policymakers would take their findings into account.
They wrote: “Considering that the air quality standards of many countries are still well above the latest World Health Organization global air quality guidelines for 2021, stricter standards or regulations for the control of air pollution should be implemented. in future policy-making”.