Prenatal exposure to air pollution associated with increased mental health risks

From MedicalXpress comes a breakdown of new research finding links between teenage mental-health struggles and exposure to noise and air pollution during pregnancy: 

A baby’s exposure to air pollution while in the womb is associated with the development of certain mental health problems once the infant reaches adolescence, new research has found. The University of Bristol-led study, published in JAMA Network Open on May 28, examined the long-term mental health impact of early-life exposure to air and noise pollution.

Growing evidence suggests air pollution, which comprises toxic gases and particulate matter, might contribute to the onset of mental health problems. It is thought that pollution could negatively affect mental health via numerous pathways, including by compromising the blood-brain barrier, promoting neuroinflammation and oxidative stress, and directly entering the brain and damaging tissue. . . . 

In this new study, researchers sought to examine the long-term impact of air and noise pollution exposure during pregnancy, early childhood and adolescence on three common mental health problems: psychotic experiences (including hallucinations, such as hearing or seeing things that others cannot, and delusions, such as having very paranoid thoughts), depression and anxiety.

To investigate this, the team used data from more than 9,000 participants from Bristol’s Children of the 90s birth cohort study (also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children), which recruited more than 14,000 pregnant women from the Bristol area between 1991 and 1992, and has followed the lives of the women, the children and their partners ever since. . . . 

Researchers found that relatively small increases in fine particulate matter during pregnancy and childhood were associated with more psychotic experiences and depression symptoms many years later in teenage years and early adulthood. These associations persisted after considering many related risk factors, such as family psychiatric history, socioeconomic status, and other area-level factors such as population density, deprivation, greenspace and social fragmentation.”

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