Researchers have found that short-term exposure to ambient air pollution was associated with exacerbations of psychiatric disorders in children one to two days later.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, also found that children living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods may be more susceptible to the effects of air pollution compared to other children, especially for disorders related to anxiety and suicidality.
"The fact that children living in high poverty neighbourhoods experienced greater health effects of air pollution could mean that pollutant and neighbourhood stressors can have synergistic effects on psychiatric symptom severity and frequency," said study lead author Cole Brokamp from University of Cincinnati in the US.
Three new studies from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Cincinnati, highlight the relationship between air pollution and mental health in children.
Two other Cincinnati Children's studies also link air pollution to children's mental health and found an association between recent high traffic related air pollution (TRAP) exposure and higher generalised anxiety.
The study is believed to be the first to use neuroimaging to link TRAP exposure, metabolic disturbances in the brain, and generalized anxiety symptoms among otherwise healthy children.
The researchers found higher myoinositol concentrations in the brain - a marker of the brain's neuroinflammatory response to TRAP.
The other study found that exposure to TRAP during early life and across childhood was significantly associated with self-reported depression and anxiety symptoms in 12 year olds.
Collectively, these studies contribute to the growing body of evidence that exposure to air pollution during early life and childhood may contribute to depression, anxiety and other mental health problems in adolescence, said the researchers.
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