Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 2nd 2015 Contents B26
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, April 2, 2015
Women who live in areas with higher air pol-
lution may also have higher anxiety, according
to a new analysis.
"It s a really interesting finding and definitely
suggests that air pollution may be related to mental
health," said lead author Melinda C Power of Johns
Hopkins University in Baltimore.
"If this is truly causal this is going to have a
huge effect on the population because everyone
is exposed, but we need more research to build
this body of evidence," Power added.
The researchers used data on more than 70,000
women in the Nurses Health Study who filled
out an eight-question anxiety survey between
ages 57 and 85.
Overall, about 15 per cent of the women had
high anxiety symptoms.
Using their previous home addresses from before
they filled out the anxiety questionnaire, the
researchers were able to estimate the women s
exposure to so-called particulate matter in the air
during the past 15 years, based on factors like dis-
tance to major roadways, population density, local
sources of emissions and wind speeds.
The researchers found no link between anxiety
levels and large air pollution particles, but exposure
to fine particles was tied to increasing anxiety
levels, according to results in BMJ. The more recent
the exposure, the higher the level of anxiety tended
For example, women who were exposed to the
most small particles in the air one month before
their anxiety test were about 12 per cent more
likely to have high anxiety symptoms, compared
to those estimated to be exposed to the least par-
ticles one month previously.
Fine particulates come from combustion sources,
including cars and power plants, Power told Reuters
Health by phone. The smaller the particle, the
deeper it may travel into the lungs.
"Our study can only comment on the population
level, on average people who were more highly
exposed had a higher level of anxiety," she said.
It did not assess distance to pollution sources or
the amount of air pollution an individual would
need to experience to have increased anxiety.
Since it was an observational study, it does not
necessarily indicate that pollution causes anxiety,
she said. Women living in more polluted areas
may experience other sources of stress that would
be linked to anxiety as well.
The authors suspect that fine particulate pol-
lution may be linked to certain subtle conditions,
like inflammation, which may increase the risk of
anxiety. Further research will need to explore this
possibility, and to look for a similar link among
men and people of a younger age, Power said.
It is too soon to think about intervening or
giving individuals recommendations based on this
result, she said.
However, there is substantial evidence that low-
ering air pollution would improve cardiovascular
health and respiratory health and reduce the risk
of stroke, she said. Short-term exposure to par-
ticulate pollution is tied to an increase in stroke
risk according to an analysis of all published
research on the subject, which appears in the same
issue of BMJ.
The relationship between atmospheric pollution
and risk of heart attack and heart failure had
already been established, and this new paper, sup-
ported by the British Heart Foundation, adds stroke
risk to that category, said lead author Dr Anoop
Shah of the University of Edinburgh in the UK.
There s not much an individual can do to
decrease their exposure to air pollution as it s
ubiquitous, Shah told Reuters Health by phone.
But policymakers do have the power
to improve public transport systems in
urban areas and reduce the number of
vehicles on the roads, which are the
major source of damaging pollution,
In fact, as reported by Reuters today,
Beijing has introduced measures to limit
the number of motorists on heavily
polluted days. It s the latest move by
authorities there to battle the choking
smog that has blanketed the city in
recent years. (Reuters)
Air pollution has been a major issue in Beijing. AP PHOTO
Air pollution may be tied to anxiety
News and advice
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
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