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Air and noise pollution in childhood can later affect mental health

Air and noise pollution in childhood can later affect mental health

Air and noise pollution in childhood can later affect mental health

The exposure to atmospheric pollution and acoustics in the early stages of life, including in the womb, is associated with three common mental health problems (psychotic experiences, depression and anxiety) from adolescence to young adulthood.

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That is the conclusion of a study published by JAMA Network Open by British researchers led by the University of Bristol and which analyzed data from more than 9,000 participants, in the southwest of England, from pregnancy, between 1991 and 1992, until birth. 24 years of children.

Pregnancy, early childhood and adolescence

Researchers examined the long-term impact of exposure to air and noise pollution during pregnancy, early childhood and adolescence on three common mental health problems: psychotic experiences, depression and anxiety.

The results suggest “an important role” of exposure to air pollution, in this case to fine particles (PM2.5) in the early stages of life (including prenatal) in the development of mental health problems in young people. , write the authors.

“Relatively small” increases in fine particles during pregnancy and childhood were associated with more psychotic experiences and symptoms of depression many years later, in adolescence and early adulthood, the university explained.

Each increase of 0.72 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 during pregnancy and childhood was associated with an 11% and 9% increase in the odds of psychotic experiences, respectively.

Exposure to such pollution during pregnancy alone was associated with a 10% increase in the odds of depression.

Regarding noise pollution, greater exposure in childhood and adolescence was associated with greater chances of anxiety.

These associations persisted after accounting for many related risk factors, such as family psychiatric history, socioeconomic status, and other area-level factors such as population density, deprivation, green space, and social fragmentation.

In both cases, psychotic experiences, depression and anxiety were measured at ages 13, 18 and 24, the study indicates.

Critical periods for the development of disorders

Childhood, adolescence and early adulthood are critical periods for the development of psychiatric disorders: worldwide, almost two-thirds of those affected become ill before the age of 25, recalled Joanne Newbury, from the University of Bristol. and one of the signatories.

The results of this study add “to a growing body of evidence – from different populations, locations and with different study designs – that suggests a detrimental impact of air pollution (and potentially noise pollution) on mental health,” he added.

Early exposure to these factors could be detrimental to mental health given the extensive brain development and epigenetic processes that take place in utero and during childhood, the research notes.

In the case of air pollution, it could also lead to restricted fetal growth and premature birth, which are risk factors for psychopathology.

The evidence was “strongest” for exposure to noise pollution in childhood and adolescence, which could increase anxiety by increasing stress and disrupting sleep.

High noise could also cause chronic physiological arousal and disrupt endocrinology. Noise pollution could also affect cognition, which could increase anxiety by affecting concentration during the school years.

It was interesting for the researchers to see that noise pollution was associated with anxiety, but not with psychotic experiences or depression.

However, they cautioned that the noise pollution measure for this study only estimated the decibels (intensity) of road sources but not other noise characteristics, such as pitch, that could be relevant to mental health.

The authors highlight the suitability of actions to reduce exposure to air and noise pollution, for example with clean air zones, which could improve the mental health of the population.

Furthermore, they believe that new studies are necessary to shed more light on the underlying causes of these associations.

Source: Elcomercio

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