Air pollution and genes may fuel depression in people, says study
According to various research studies, increased levels of exposure to air pollution can cause inflammation and damage blood vessels and tissues. It may contribute to adverse psychological effects, making people impulsive and plunging them into depression.
Environmentalists and medical practitioners who are analyzing the adverse effects of air pollution on the human body consider it to be a public health hazard. The quality of air has deteriorated in the past few decades in India. Our country is the most populous place in the world after China, which explains the rising level of air pollution. The pollutants present in the atmospheric air have elevated the crises and have spread across Delhi-NCR, Varanasi, Chennai, Kolkata, Agra, and Lucknow.
The cities have come under the threat of toxic pollutants owing to heavy industrialization. It has resulted in massive health hazards for the population—such as experiencing irritation in the eyes, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.
Apart from physical health issues, air pollution is now spreading its tentacles over the mental health of people. Many current researches have suggested that people are falling into depression due to toxic pollutants present in the air.
Studies have explained that ‘particulate matter’ (PM) as small as 2.5 microns contributes a greater risk because these can easily enter the bloodstream and break through the body and into the brain. PM 2.5 micron and less such as Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulphur Oxides (SOx), and Carbon Monoxide can cause declining memory and neuro-inflammation as it damages the brain membrane that protects the brain from pollutants entering into it. Finally, it can cause inflammation in the blood vessels causing damage within it.
The existence of toxic substances in the brain can cause bipolar disorder, anxiety, Alzheimer disease, schizophrenia, impulsive control and depression.
A recent study published in the PNAS journal integrated scientific data from an international genetic consortium of over 40 nations. The data included the role of air pollution in the brain gene expression, which is determined through neuroimaging.
The study was conducted by Hao Yang-Tan of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, in China. The study focused on determining the role of air pollutants as being responsible for altering emotional and cognitive circuits in the brain by permuting the expression of genes responsible for depression.
People enduring depression may not be genetically predisposed for depression. But, people having depression in their genes can have greater risk of developing depression, but not necessarily they would develop depression.
However, the study evinced that air pollutants can play a major role in triggering depression in people having depression in their genetic predisposition. The study established a direct link between neurobiology and air pollution.
The study included 352 healthy people from Beijing, and they went through genotyping to determine if they possess genes related to depression in their genes and then their exposure to air pollution was reviewed. The brains of individuals were scanned through neuroimaging while they were assigned cognitive task to complete. The study concluded that air pollution impacted an individual’s emotional well-being, thinking and problem solving skills. It was found that air pollution exacerbated the expression of depression genes in people, causing depression.
How to cope with air pollution and how to seek help?
Controlling air pollution is a global initiative and it is the responsibility of every citizen of the world. In India, it has become a national concern, especially in the capital city, New Delhi, and other metro cities. During the winters, air quality in Delhi and adjacent places deteriorate to a dangerous level. Whatever the reasons, it has to be dealt with very soon for the health of the people.
Adequate measures need to be devised and implemented to arrest this bad air quality during the winter.
Planting trees, wearing masks while traveling outside the home, refraining from traveling by personalized vehicles, and encouraging the use of public transport, following a healthy routine and healthy diet can help to protect people from air pollution.
But if pollution has impacted your mental well-being, then it’s time to connect with mental health professionals.
Athena Behavioral Health is one of the best mental health treatment centers in India. Our mental health rehabilitation center provides individualized treatment programs that suffice an individual’s requirements. We are one of the best platforms providing a wide array of treatment programs to treat mental health conditions and alcohol and substance dependency. To know more, call us now on our 24/7 helpline number 9289086193 and get immediate assistance.